Kid Review: Lou Lou & Pea and The Bicentennial Bonanza

Thank you Jill Diamond for sending Marley, our kid reviewer,  the free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of your latest friendship adventure- Lou Lou & Pea and the Bicentennial Bonanza.

Marley is a voracious 5th grade reader and couldn’t wait to get her hands on this book! Here is her summary and review!

Lulu and Pea is a story about two friends who have different hobbies but cherish their friendship. In the story, Lulu and Pea’s neighborhood is hosting the party for the town’s 200th birthday and everyone is preparing. Then the mayor leaves the town and the party is in the hands of the vice mayor. Soon, the town’s preparation and excitement goes down the drain when the party is moved to another neighborhood and, coincidently enough, it is the vice mayor’s neighborhood. Can Lulu and Pea save their town’s preparations and party, or will their bonanza turn into a disappointment?

 I would recommend this book for young readers who want a challenge and older readers who just want a great story. I rate this book with 5 stars because of the way it draws you in and you don’t want to stop reading.

All in all, this was a wonderful book and I give a big thanks to Storymamas for letting me review it.

This book was released a few weeks ago, so feel free to run to a bookstore and buy a copy today!

Marley is finishing up the school year and will soon be off to middle school in the fall. She loves reading, and spends hours before bed getting lost in books! She enjoys soccer, theater, being with friends, is a wonderful niece to Storymama Kim, and loves to read to her cousins any chance she gets! 

 

To learn more about Jill Diamond checkout her website or follow her on twitter.

Book Review, Interview & **Giveaway** For The Last Grand Adventure

Rebecca Behrens contacted Storymamas about reading and reviewing her newest middle grade book, The Last Grand Adventure and we are so happy she did! The book takes you on a historical and emotional journey as a grandmother and granddaughter embark on an adventure of a lifetime from California to Kansas. Bea has agreed to spend the summer with her grandmother, even though they haven’t seen each other in years. Bea is excited (and worried) about what adventures she might have in the retirement community home Pidge just moved into. Bea is soon to find out that they aren’t staying put and are embarking on a cross country road trip to Kansas to reconnect with the long missing, Amelia Earhart, who is Pidge’s sister!

I found this book so full of heart. Rebecca has done a fabulous job of creating these two very different characters, Pidge, who is full of gumption and works on impulses, while Bea is strategic and thinks things through.  Their relationship forms as they work through the bumps in the road. It made my heart warm as I read this story and I felt that these two related strangers begin to understand and become better people for having experienced this trip together. It’s as if you are on the adventure with them. While reading, there are parts where I’d cross my fingers in hopes that the mishaps they experienced along the way got resolved or I’d smile as I was reading a part about how Bea would love to take out her camera and capture the world around her. The story draws you in. Whether you want to know if Amelia will remember to meet them, if you’re looking for a story of friendship, hoping to catch the many references to the 70s time period, or just want to go on an adventure of a lifetime, this book is for you!

We are so happy Rebecca answered 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her.

3 ?s about The Last Grand Adventure

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Heartfelt historical adventure

What were some of the things you learned during the research/writing process that you didn’t know before about Amelia Earhart?

I learned so much about Amelia’s life and accomplishments! Some favorite research discoveries are that she often wore exclusively brown (her high-school yearbook captioned Amelia “the girl in brown who walks alone”); she was a poet; a woman pilot, Neta Snook, taught her how to fly; Amelia had her own clothing line; she suffered from chronic sinus problems and even had surgery for it (which surprised me, considering that pressure while flying must have sometimes made it worse); and that she liked to eat tomato juice and chocolate while on long, ocean-crossing flights–on her groundbreaking Pacific flight, she treated herself to a cup of hot chocolate.

The strangest theory I read about her disappearance was that she and Fred Noonan could have been eaten by giant coconut crabs on Gardner Island (now called Nikumaroro). I really hope that didn’t happen!

Bea and Pidge are such wonderful, complex characters, which traits of them would you say you most identify with? Or are they based on someone you know?

Both are fictional, although I used many details from the real Muriel Earhart’s childhood to help me create the character of Pidge and make her story factually accurate. I also borrowed a few of my own grandmothers’ personalities and quirks (and some household details, like a scratchy green sofa and bowl of gumdrops) to create Pidge, and I drew on my experiences as a younger sister, too. While researching Amelia’s life, I became very interested in details about her sister, Muriel. Their relationship was both extraordinary and ordinary–they had the same kind of rivalry and squabbles and enduring friendship that most siblings can relate to, I think. Probably because I could relate to that aspect, I fell in love with the idea of writing about a famous figure’s little sister.

Bea, I relate to much more strongly. Like her, I’m sometimes hesitant to dive into an unknown adventure. I love to travel, but it takes me a while to get used to a new routine (or lack thereof). I also share Bea’s curiosity. She’s a great observer, in her journals and through her photography. With Bea, I really wanted to create a character who is brave not because of a lack of worry or uncertainty, but because she works through those feelings and then goes on to have an exhilarating, eye-opening experience.

3 ?s about You

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

I know from friends in the field that it’s more painstaking and less swashbuckling (a la Indiana Jones movies), but I’d still love to be an archaeologist–which I suppose is another form of historical storytelling. 🙂

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

Walk Two Moons. Decades later, and I still remember the summer I read, and reread, and reread it as a kid. It’s a beautiful story with richly detailed characters (and come to think of it, it’s another kid-grandparent road trip!). For me it was absolutely a heartprint kind of book. In terms of recent releases–Orphan Island was lovely and deep, and I think about that story a lot, wondering what happened to the characters after the last page. My fingers are crossed that there will be a sequel or companion novel.

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

This is technically in my freezer–a half-dozen doughnuts from the 116-year-old bake shop in my neighborhood, which announced it’s closing this summer. I’m stockpiling all my faves. So I guess my love of history even extends to my sweet tooth!

**If you’d like to win your very own copy, generously donated by Rebecca, please visit us and enter on any or all of our social media sites. Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. ****

Mary Had A Little Lab – Review and Author Interview

 

I first became acquainted with Sue’s work when Race zoomed into our nightly reading rotation. My son simply loved the story and so as a kidlit enthusiast, my job was to find out more about this author. I was so excited to see that she was coming out with a new book in a few short months, Mary Had A Little Lab and so I contacted her. She sent the Storymamas a copy of the book and agreed to do an interview!

Mary is a girl who loves to build and create. When she realizes that inventing by yourself can get lonely, she gathers a tuft of wool to put into her machine, and out comes a wooly sheep! Mary enjoys the sheep while it helps with chores and groceries, but what happens when her classmates want one too?! Well, Mary duplicates the sheep and soon the town becomes overrun by sheep, what will they do? And if you know the popular rhyme, “everywhere that Mary went….” you can try and guess, but as the story continues, Mary finds a way to solve the problem of too many sheep and how fun it can be with friends! 

This book embraces so much that kids will enjoy: science and experimenting, humor, girl power, using an old familiar rhyme to guide the new version of this story and teamwork! Great for all ages. We are so thankful Sue took the time to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about herself.

3 Questions about Mary Had A Little Lab

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

Funny, creative, empowering

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

In a dream! I dreamt the title, and the next day made a connection that a lab could be a laboratory (as opposed to a dog–we have a labrador). Then I furiously wrote the first draft.

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

That if they love to do something, and they follow their dreams, they will eventually find happiness. Or, I hope they get a good laugh and enjoy all the fun details in the illustrations! I guess what I’m saying is, I hope they get out of it what they want to get out of it.

3 Questions about You

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

I think I would still always be writing things, but if I wasn’t making a career out of that, maybe I’d be a veterinarian.

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

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.  

Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret and Deenie by Judy Blume.

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

Homemade salsa. It’s one of the few things I make well and it’s really tasty.

To learn more about Sue and her work, feel free to visit her website, or find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Building Confidence From A Scribble! Book Review & Author Interview


I’m Not Just A Scribble… was generously gifted to the Storymamas to read & review. We love how books find a way to remind readers how important it is to appreciate people for the being unique and for reinforcing how important it is to include people.

This story takes us on the journey of a young scribble, who is happy and confident, but then starts to meet other things who are not nice, and confused about who he is, being a messy bunch of lines. The scribble becomes sad. But then becomes mad and stands up for himself! “The fact that I’m different doesn’t make me so bad.” He makes others see that he’d be a fun friend no matter what he looks like. The other objects agree that they weren’t very nice and believe playing is more enjoyable with lots of friends.

Diane Alber’s book would make a great addition to primary classrooms.  She took the time to answer some of our questions below.

3 Questions about I’m Not Just A Scribble

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

Mindfulness, Creative, Kindness

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

My son actually inspired the character for this book, he’s still new to drawing and most of his drawings would be scribbles that he wasn’t too excited about. Then one day he got the idea to put two googly eyes on his drawing and his eyes just lit up. And that’s how scribble the character was created He started to make all his little scribbles into little creatures and he was so happy! It not only made him want to draw more but gave him confidence with his drawings.Then after I had a character I needed to come up with a storyline, and it just so happened that my son had just started school and his first encounter with a “not so nice kid” As we talked through it I realized that this would be a great story line for a book. Not only could children relate with the character but it could teach them empathy and kindness in the process.

Which part was easier for you, the words (story) or the pictures?

Illustrations definitely, I’m an artist first, and rhyming is very difficult. But I just love reading rhyming books so I knew I had to create one that rhymed.

3 Questions about Diane Alber

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

This is a tough question because i’m not a writer first 🙂 I’m an artist. I graduated college with a degree in fine arts specializing in painting.

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

We’re All Wonders, the message was amazing and the illustrations we unbelievable.  

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

It’s hard to point out one item because pretty much all of it is for my children, but it’s hard to miss how much milk we have, usually 4-5 cartons at a time.  I like to be prepared and I can’t stand to run out of milk!  

 

Just Try It Wyatt – Author Interview & Review


One of my favorite parts of Storymamas is interviewing authors and illustrators. It is always fascinating to hear the evolution of the book and the inspirations for creating the characters or story. I also love to hear more about their lives. Since we are three people, it is often hard to meet in person due to being in various locations, so many interviews have taken place using video technology or email exchanges. When a local author in my hometown outside of Detroit reached out to me and wanted to meet me and talk about her book, I jumped at the chance. Kelsey and I met at a coffee shop and talked all about literacy and our passions for what we do. Kelsey Fox is the author of the book Just Try It Wyatt.

Just Try It Wyatt is a book about a fox named Wyatt who is stubborn and doesn’t want to try anything new. When all the things he knows and likes aren’t available, Wyatt becomes annoyed and sad. Will his frustrated lead him to try something out of his comfort zone? And if he does, will he like it?
What is great about the story is it is relatable to everyone who reads it- kids, parents, teachers; we’ve all either been Wyatt or known someone like Wyatt. Kelsey has done a wonderful job of creating an engaging story around this difficult concept. I think the way Wyatt acts and feels throughout the book will help strike conversation around this idea of not being afraid to try something new. Preschool and primary classroom teachers can benefit from using this book as a resource in their classroom. Parents of young children can also get a lot out of it with their kids. I’ve started to refer to Wyatt when I’m encouraging my 3 year old son to try new foods.

Another great addition to the book is the true facts about the red fox in the back of the book. Many times I’ve had kids ask questions about animals in books and I have not known what to tell them at that moment, and we’ve had to find another resource to figure it out. Kelsey was thoughtful and has added information to the back of her book.

Something else that is so special about the book is Kelsey. I know I can’t meet ever author out there (although we would love to), but hearing her talk about how this book is a labor of love for her, the countless hours she’s put into writing, rewriting, editing, and finding how to publish, is inspiring. I loved listening and learning about how much she has learned in the business and how much she still wants to find out. She shared with me that she needed to redo most of the book, illustrations, books size, paper weight, just so that stores would even consider putting it on their shelves. It was wonderful to meet her and hear her talk about her book. And so I hope you will take a chance with a book you might not have heard of before and Just Try It!

Kelsey was kind enough to answer our Storymamas questions. Three questions about the book and three about the her.

3 ?s about Just Try It Wyatt

What three words would you use to describe your book?
Educate. Entertain. Inform.

What was your inspiration for creating the book?
As a teacher, I understand that we want stories to correlate with a greater lesson we’re trying to teach our students. I sometimes found it hard to find the perfect book to teach to, so I wrote my own. My plan is to create an entire series that teachers can use the first few weeks of school about good character and being a part of a classroom family!

Can you tell our readers about your choice to self publish and what are some of your big take-aways after going through the process?
Deciding to self-publish was such a hard choice to make. There are pros and cons for both self and traditional publishing paths. Self-publishing allowed me to have more control and creativity throughout the whole writing process. I also am able to have my book out to the public practically years before if I would have went to a large publishing house. My biggest take away is that self-publishing is very hard work! You’re your own editor, formatter, publicist marketing manager and everything in between! You need to be a go-getter and dedicated. Even after meeting with two publishers, I choose to self-publish and have been 100% happy with my choice!

3 ?s about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?
If I was not a writer, I would like to be a farmer. I like animals and gardening. I have a small urban farm now where I grow all my family’s vegetables in the summer, can them in the fall and raise chickens year long. It would be great to live in the country and have lots of land.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?
When I was growing up I love the Little House on the Prairie books! My mom introduced me to them and I was hooked! Reading about someone who went through so much, but lived to tell the tale amazed me. I think that may be why I enjoy memoirs so much today.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?
I always have coffee in my fridge! It’s a staple in my diet. As a mom, teacher, wife, and writer, I am always on the go and need that pick me up to help me with my busy lifestyle. I would like to think that means I am a go-getter and am up for any challenge!

To learn more about Kelsey, please follow Wyatt on Facebook and Twitter!

Be Kind – A Must Read For All & Illustrator Interview

We don’t even know what to say except Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and Illustrated by Jen Hill should live in every classroom, every home, and every library! What a special book Pat & Jen have created. In a time where there is so much going on, reminding us that “being kind can be easy” but it also says it can be hard and sometimes scary. This book is a great reminder of how we can begin and continue to spread kindness from all different places.

When Tanisha gets grape juice spilled on her, all the kids laugh, except one, our main character. She is a wonderful person who shows empathy toward Tanisha and tries to cheer her up. When her attempt fails, she thinks of what it really means to be kind. Is it the little things, the big things, will small acts of kindness add up to something great? This book tackles these complex questions and helps us see that kindness can be both big and small. 

Pat and Jen have created something beautiful together, as the words and pictures work in perfect harmony. The character who has gotten the spill on her, is covered in purple. The hues of purple woven into the story tell even more of the mood and layers the characters are feeling. And something that struck me is the plain purple endpapers. It made me stop and think and gather my thoughts. Lots of books these days have designs or even the story on the endpapers, this is just purple, and the color helped me stop and reflect before and after the book.

Thank you for creating this book, we look forward to sharing it with our kids and students.

Jen Hill was kind enough to answer 3 questions about her art and three questions about herself.

3?s about your art

What is your go to medium for creating illustrations and why?

I use combinations of Gouache, Photoshop, pencil + paper, and recently have begun experimenting with Adobe Sketch on my iPad. Painting in gouache will always be my favorite, but I use it less and less as digital rendering allows for easier revisions. The medium I choose for the final art depends on the piece. For middle-grade I work in a black and white pen-and-ink style. For picture books I’ll use gouache or photoshop or a combination of both.

Because you illustrate for a variety of authors with varying stories, how do you create art to look different while still adding your signature look?

Color and application of medium is probably the best answer here. Every story has a distinct voice, and I choose my approach accordingly. A “loud” story will have heavier pictures; for a “quiet” story I’ll use a softer touch and more muted palette. For a wry story I’ll give the characters a bit of an edge. I always begin the same way: I print the manuscript so I can doodle along the margins as I read. After a few readings I’ll have a proper feel for the tone and mood. From here it’s matter of instinct. Imagery typically pops into my mind and I attempt to create what I see using the medium which best fits the picture in my head. The end result may resemble what was in my imagination., but sometimes it differs wildly. That’s okay, because I trust the process.

In your email you described this as  “perhaps the most meaningful collaboration I’ve been a part of.” Can you tell us more about that.

When I read the manuscript for BE KIND I was moved by the message of thoughtfulness and empathy. I admire Pat’s skill in creating a deeply felt experience with minimal words. There is no moralizing in this book; the reader is instead invited to ponder a variety of scenarios relating to kindness and compassion. It’s a direct appeal to one’s best self, powerful in its subtlety. The opportunity to make art is even more of a privilege when the message promotes kindness and celebrates humanity.

3?s about you

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you want to be and why?

Oh, so many things. I always knew I would be an illustrator and never considered a different career, but I have had a few side gigs along the way. I’m an armchair psychologist, a hairdresser, and a secret singer-songwriter.  If I had the means I’d be a career college student. There’s so much to learn. History is full of fascinating stories.  

What is one artist that you would outfit your home with if you had all the money in the world?

Saul Steinberg or Georges Braque.

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

Seltzer. I am an addict.

To learn more about Jen Hill, please visit her website or follow her on twitter and Instagram.

Voices From The Underground Railroad


Happy Book Birthday to Voices From The Underground Railroad from Kay Winters and illustrator, Larry Day.  I met Larry last year, along with his writer wife, Miriam Busch, at a book signing at Second Star To The Right Bookstore.  We chatted about their work and how I was involved in a kidlit enthusiast group called Storymamas. They both were kind enough to follow us on social media. Larry began tagging Storymamas while in the process of drawing this book. We loved every sketch, draft and drawing he showed. We knew that as the publishing date got closer, we wanted to help spread the word about this wonderful book. The final copy of the book is magnificent. The colors, details, and facial expressions Larry has created is spectacular.  Kay writes this book using several points of view. The two main voices are, Jeb and Mattie, who are escaping slavery to seek freedom through the underground railroad. Kay’s text is so powerful and the pictures Larry has drawn make you feel all the emotions these characters are going through. It is a fabulous book to teach readers about the historical events during this time. We hope you will add it to your home, school, or classroom libraries.

Here is the book trailer! Check it out!

Larry was also kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about himself.

3 ?s  about Voices From the Underground Railroad

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

Escape. Running. Freedom.

The colors, the facial expressions, and details on the page are truly spectacular. What was the process for getting each page the way you wanted it?

What a good question!

Normally, I draw expressions without thinking. Detail comes naturally. Expressions come from a respectful appreciation of the subject.

What was the collaboration like with Kay? Did she see your drawings through the draft phase? Did she send you information on what she envisioned?

I always share with authors. There are times when an author’s information is crucial to the visual story.  One never knows.

3 ?s about You

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you want to be and why?

Another great question!

Sometimes. I think about losing the capability to draw.

If that happened, I would write.

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

How about four, instead:

Milo’s Hat Trick, Jon Agee.

Alfie, by Thyra Heder

Bone Dog, by Eric Rohmann

Lion, Lion, by Miriam Busch

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

Blueberries!

Thank you Larry for chatting with Storymamas. We are excited about all your upcoming projects, including a collaboration with Jerry Spinelli, publishing by Holiday House in 2019!

To learn more about Larry feel free to visit his website or follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

All Three Stooges -Erica Perl’s Newest Book & Interview

Erica Perl’s newest book All Three Stooges enters the world tomorrow.  I had the pleasure of having the ARC and reading it a few weeks ago. For the past several years, I think that middle grade/young adult authors have done such a wonderful job dealing with difficult issues so many kids are exposed to in their daily lives, ones that occur personally or that they might see on the news or social media. This book is no exception. All Three Stooges is told from the perspective of a boy named Noah. Noah loves hanging out with his best friend, Dash and Dash’s father. While hanging out together the three of them would perform and watch comedy bits together.  Unfortunately, Dash’s dad dies suddenly and Noah has a difficult time dealing with his death. Throughout the book Noah is not only mourning the loss of Dash’s dad, but Dash has shut Noah out of his life.  For Noah, someone who loves comedy and entertaining others with his jokes, he finds it difficult to navigate his life without his best friend. In an honest way, Noah desperately wants his best friend back, and it leads to many poor decisions and having to really think about what is important in his life.  With such a heavy theme, Erica has done a good job of weaving humor and pop culture references, which adds a good sense of lightness to the book.  Also, within the book, Erica, educates the reader about the Three Stooges and other famous comedians. Within the first page it asks you to google the Three Stooges scene “seltzer fight three little pigskins.” (You should, it is pretty funny). After I finished the book I wrote Erica and told her I felt the book was heavy, emotional, funny, and made me think. There are probably so many students who loose a loved one in middle school and don’t know how to navigate their feelings. I know this book will touch the lives of many who read it.

Thank you Erica for writing a book that deals with such a touchy topic in an enjoyable and heartfelt way. Erica was also kind enough to answer three questions about the book and three questions about her.

3 ?s  about All Three Stooges

What are three words you would use to describe your book?

Three words? That’s hard for someone as word-y as me, but I’ll try. First is loss, both because Dash loses his dad and Noah loses his best friend. The second word is longing, because Noah spend a lot of time wishing things could go back to the way they were (when Dash’s dad was alive and Dash was still speaking to him), and this motivates him to make some pretty bad choices. The third word is laughter. This is because it what cemented the friendship of Noah and Dash in the first place (their love of comedy), and because it is what keeps us going even in the toughest of times.

What is one skit/sketch mentioned in the book that you would tell readers to google immediately and watch?

I love Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song, which is in the book and is the basis for the title of the book. There are several versions out there, I should note, so here’s the one I’d suggest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX5Z-HpHH9g (“All Three Stooges” is mentioned at 2:41)

In your author’s notes, you mentioned you wanted to tell this story from Noah’s perspective, had you ever drafted or considered from another point of view?

Noah’s voice was the one that was in my head, and it helped me really focus on the ripple effect of a tragedy. I think this perspective also felt the closest to my own, since I have lost a friend to suicide and I am close to several people who have lost immediate family members to suicide.

3 ?s about You

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

There are a lot of other things I like to do – dance, run, play with my kids and my dogs, bake pies, sing, and ski – but so far I’m not aware of any opportunities to become a singing, skiing, pie-baker. For this reason, I’m planning to stick with writing books!

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

One of my favorite books is Roald Dahl’s DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD. I didn’t consciously connect that book with ALL THREE STOOGES while I was writing it, but I think the way in which Danny worships his dad (but doesn’t know his secrets) is not unlike how Noah views Dash’s father, Gil.

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

I wish I could say “seltzer!” because it plays an important role in this book, but the truth is: I’m trying to stop drinking carbonated beverages. I used to drink it every day but now I only have seltzer every once in a while, so it is not in my fridge. One of my favorite things, though, that IS in my fridge is a jar of capers. Tiny, pickled, salty little capers – yum! What do they tell you about me? That I love things that seem cute but pack a big punch. Like capers and hedgehogs (note: I don’t eat hedgehogs, or keep them in my fridge).

Thank you Erica ! To learn more about Erica and all her other wonderful books, check out her website or follow her Instagram and  twitter. 

 

Get Your Mitt Ready & Maple Syrup Out- Just Like Jackie – Review & Author Interview


There is a common phrase that many of us teach our children “You can’t judge a book by its cover”, but when it comes to books, it’s a different ball game. Book lovers, you know what I mean! How often do we pick up a novel based on the cover? This is exactly how we got introduced to Lindsey’s book Just Like Jackie. We saw the cover reveal on twitter and our jaws dropped. The illustration of a young girl and man in the cold snowy trees with just enough light poking through, we knew we had to read it! We were lucky enough to receive an ARC from a friend and we tapped right into it!

Lindsey has created this wonderful main character, Robinson. When we first meet her she is beating up a boy in school who called her a name. Robinson has a hard exterior, but as we get to know her we learn that she is dealing with so much inside and like many kids, is trying to do her best to survive each day. As we read the book our heart ached for Robinson, who lives with her grandfather, and begins to notice that he is often forgetting things and having a hard time finishing sentences. She tries so hard to keep it a secret because he is all the family she has. As we read it we were thinking how this book would really connect with many students, who outside of the school walls have so much going on in their home lives. It once again reminded us, as educators, that students have so many stories, many of which are never shared in classroom, but can effect their presence at school.  The book tackles themes of friendship, bullying, illness, loss of parent and more, the plot moved along well and we felt we got to grow with the characters. We hope you have a chance to read and get to know Robinson too. 

Lindsey was kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book and three questions about her.

3 ?s  about Just Like Jackie

What three words you would use to describe Just Like Jackie?

Honest

Inclusive

Intimate

What was the process for creating this book with so many important themes?

Whenever I write for kids I think back to my own middle grade years and try to focus in and really remember the things that made me feel something intensely. JUST LIKE JACKIE was born of the moments I recall sitting with my grandpa, when he would forget the ends of his sentences and I wouldn’t know for how long I should wait to see if he remembered, or if I should finish his sentence for him, or just nod and pat his hand as if to tell him that everything was going to be OK. I felt uncomfortable and sad and I wished I could do something to help his memory get better. This experience and these emotions helped me develop Robbie’s tender side, her relationship with her own grandpa.

JUST LIKE JACKIE was also born from a feeling of rage when a neighborhood boy smashed a robins’ nest out of my backyard tree with his wiffle ball bat. I had been watching and waiting for those eggs to hatch into little birdies and when the blue shells splattered across my lawn my ten-year-old hands clenched and my fist connected with his face. This feeling helped me develop Robbie’s fiesty side, her anger with bully Alex Carter.

From these two seed emotions, I was able to build the rest of Robbie’s story.

Tell us about your experience with fixing cars and making maple syrup.

When I was growing up, my dad worked for Toyota and my favorite part about visiting the dealership was the service shop out back. I was always amazed by the mechanics who knew how to assess a problem, hoist a car up on lifts, and fix it. I liked their dirty hands and oil-smeared uniforms. Unlike Robbie, I have never actually fixed anything on car in my life, but have always been in awe of people who have that technical know-how.

Maple syrup is a different story. I definitely got my hands sticky with sap every sugaring season growing up in Vermont. My grandpa had a maple farm out in the woods with a thousand taps and holding tanks with old engines that would push the sap into the sugarhouse where we’d boil it down to our Stoddard family maple syrup. Like Robbie’s grandpa, mine also had Alzheimer’s, but out at his sugarhouse, flushing lines and chopping wood and boiling sap, he never missed a beat.  

3 ?s about You

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

I was a middle school English teacher in Washington Heights, NYC for ten years and LOVED it. It was very hard to leave the classroom, but at the time of this two-book deal with HarperCollins, I also had my first child and returning to the classroom seemed like it would be too much. It felt like a good time to focus on my writing career in a way that I hadn’t been able to in the past because teachers work full FULL time. My husband and I are expecting a second child in February and I’ve just finished a second book, and my brain is churning on a third, but I hope to return to education, in some way, in the near future.

Another dream of mine has always been to open an independent bookstore. I know it’s a lot of work and I’d have a lot to learn but I am SO HAPPY in bookstores.

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

On the adult side, SING, UNBURIED, SING by Jesmyn Ward. This book gutted me. I had to put it down several times just to breathe.

On the children’s side, BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson. The story of her family is itself an incredible journey through American history, and her poetry both sings and pierces on every page. It’s unforgettable.

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

Can I cheat and say my freezer? Because I’m never without at least one pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, New York Super Fudge Chunk, Half Baked– I like the flavors with chunks, left on the counter until it’s just the right consistency, and eaten out of my Housing Works Bookstore mug. THAT, and a book, is my picture of comfort.  

Thank you Lindsey! To learn more about Lindsey, check out her website or follow her on twitter. 

Wide Awake Bear & Chat with Author: Pat Zietlow Miller

If you’ve ever had the child who just can’t fall asleep, Pat Zietlow Miller’s newest picture book is just what you need. It is a sweet story about a bear who just can’t fall asleep during winter. He has many thoughts of spring and it makes it even harder to fall back to sleep. This story is a great read for the younger kids in your life. The pictures are warm and gentle and match the rhythm of Pat’s text.

Pat was gracious enough to gift Storymamas with the F & G of the book and we can’t wait for it to be welcomed into the world so we can buy a copy for our own kids! The book will be released on January 2nd!

Along with our advanced copy, Pat was willing to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her.

3 Questions about Wide-Awake Bear

The dedication to your mother-in-law is so sweet, can you tell us more about why you chose her?

My mother-in-law, Lynn Miller, lives in Door County, Wisconsin, an area full of charming, small towns with a resort feel. She has taken my books and walked into every little library up there and basically insisted that the unsuspecting librarians purchase my books. She’s also convinced bookstores to carry them and came very close to getting a local bakery to make themed-cookies that coordinate with my books. She’s a force of nature. All that effort and support are worth a dedication at the very least.

What does your workspace look like?

I always wish I could say that I write in a funky coffee shop in Manhattan or in a cottage on a  sweeping, sheep-filled moor in Scotland. But, no. I write at my kitchen table in Madison, Wisconsin surrounded by mail, newspapers, snack wrappers, cats that want to sit on my computer keyboard  and the occasional dirty sock. Why is there a dirty sock on my kitchen table? Who knows? I’ve stopped asking. We will be moving later this fall, and my goal is to have my own reading/writing room that is a debris-free zone. We’ll see if that happens.

What was your process for writing Wide-Awake Bear?

The story is based on an absolutely epic meltdown of a tantrum my youngest daughter had several years ago when I woke her up from a nap to go to volleyball practice. Later, when I asked her why she’d gotten so upset, she uttered this memorable line: “I was a hibernating bear. You woke me up, and I went into a bear frenzy.”

That comment inspired the book. I tell the whole story in this blog post.

This is the same daughter who inspired my first picture book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH. I may need to start giving her co-author credit.

3 Questions about You

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

This is probably cheating, but I’d want to be an editor. I love making copy as good as it can be. And I’m an AP Style geek. I love knowing that sauce-covered, grilled meat is “barbecue” not “barbeque” or “BBQ” or any other variant.

And, I’ve always thought being the person who names nail polish colors would be an awesome job. Maybe I could do nail polish colors to coordinate with children’s books, like:

  •    Blueberries for Sal.
  •    The Man with the Yellow Nails. (Who needs a hat?)
  •    Pinkalicious.
  •    My Many-Colored Toes

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

STARS, a picture book written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Marla Frazee. It’s picture book perfection, and the simplicity of the language is something I constantly aspire to. And it has memorable lines for adults and kids. Read it. Buy it. Share it. Love it.

But I have a whole shelf of much-loved books that I keep for inspiration. And I have a list of practically perfect picture books on my blog. Check it out.

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

Every day, I take a Fage raspberry yogurt to work with me. (I have a non-kidlit-related job.)  So the fridge always has a week’s supply. And you might find a Dove dark-chocolate candy bar cooling in there too. That candy is better cold.

Please also check out some of her other picture books we’ve enjoyed:

 Sophie’s Squash

The Quickest Kid In Clarksville

  Be Kind – Released February 6th (and we can’t wait)

For more information on Pat Zietlow Miller, check out her website or follow her on Instagram & Twitter.