Why’d the Chicken Cross the Road?…

Exit Strategy by Lauren Allbright

I really wanted to start this blog with a joke, since this book is about a boy, Ross, who researches different ways to be funny after accidentally making a humorous exit from a school before he and his mom moved to another place. But even after reading the book, I realized I am not funny and any attempts might make you stop reading this post now. So I will tell about how I had an opportunity to meet the lovely author of the book, Exit Strategy at Second Star to the Right Books a few weeks ago. Lauren Allbright came into the Rumpus Room (back garage of the store where they hold events) with her three adorable and enthusiastic children, all wearing t-shirts with the book cover on them and the #justshowupbooktour. Lauren was so sweet talking to all the other girls who attended and then came over to me to introduce herself. She told me the whole family was traveling in an RV during the summer for her book tour, so cool! Once I arrived it started to rain, something that rarely happens in Denver, but when it does, you are usually guaranteed sun in a few hours. Go figure it started to rain harder as more people showed up. Once the wet fans arrived Lauren talked to the crowd about her book and read an excerpt.

 

While Lauren signed books I asked her a few interview questions, I later emailed her some of them and others.

Please read what she had to say when asked, 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her…

3 Questions about Exit Strategy

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Funny, sincere, and redeeming.

We love how there is a layer of the book that can teach/reinforce graphs and charts!  When making the book, what was the process for picking which graph/chart would fit appropriately?

After I researched how to be funny and what people perceived to be funny, I put it all in a flow chart. When I first started my research, I was doing it for me son and I wanted to give him a graphic with the info. Then I thought, “This is helpful to me!” which led to thinking about all the time I could have used a handy-dandy chart to tell me to tell the joke or keep it to myself. (I STILL need the chart sometimes!) Somewhere in there, the idea for EXIT STRATEGY got planted. Since I knew I wanted to use the flowchart at the end of the book, it made sense for there to be graphics throughout. I browsed science fair projects (thank you, Pinterest!)  to see which ones I liked and which ones supported the story. Making the charts and graphs were my favorite part of writing this book! They also helped me really understand the main character and how he sees the world.

What research did you do to learn more about how to be funny?

This was overwhelming at first! “Funny” is such an abstract concept (and changes based on the situation and setting). I started out reading websites and interviews by comedians and took a bunch of notes. After that I watched TV shows with laugh tracks and paid a lot of attention to when the laugh tracks were played–that is where the producers WANT you to laugh. When I heard them, I’d ask, “Was that funny to me?” and “Why did I think that was funny or not funny.” I also watched people as they watched TV or chatted with others and noted what made them literally laugh out loud. And, of course, I have my own field research–years of trying to be funny (and often failing!).

3 Questions about You

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

I’d love to be a dancer for a famous singer. I am not that talented, but I LOVE to dance and move and work hard at a physical goal.

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

I just finished THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas. It is very timely, of course, but Angie is so good at creating a story and showing (rather than telling) how people can react and how the same situation can be viewed very differently. THE HATE U GIVE is so textured and layered, there is so much to absorb and think about.

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

*Goes to put a random/non-food item in the fridge to make this easy to answer*

Just kidding.

A loaf of Udi’s gluten-free bread. My middle son and I have Celiac Disease, so we buy Udi’s in bulk. We always have multiple loaves in the deep freeze and one in the fridge. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was an adult (my son actually got diagnosed first and that’s how we knew how to look at Celiac for me). I was so sick as a kid. And tired. Eating gluten free doesn’t feel like a burden because I’m just so happy to be healthy now! (Though sometimes people can make me feel like I’m a burden for needing to eat sans gluten!)

But that ends on a bummer note, so how about a mom joke from the book?

Question: What do you call of firefly that backs into a fan?

Answer: De-lighted!

 

Back To School #booksnaps

In early June I was intrigued with #booksnaps when they kept popping up on my twitter feed. I would see a photo of a page from the book, the tweeter’s bitmoji and typed up text. Although most of the time I hadn’t read the book, I felt their fuel, their fire, their reaction to whatever they were reading. Wow!  If I was enjoying learning about what these people were thinking and learning during their reading, I am sure this would be a great tool to to use with my students, as they would love seeing each other’s #booksnaps and learning more about each other. It turns out the creator of #booksnaps presented at the International Society for Educational Technology (ISTE) Conference in San Antonio where 2 storymamas had the privilege of attending. We attended the ignite session for Tara Martin, #booksnaps creator. She shared during this session that she wanted to find a way to use the app her son couldn’t put down (Snapchat) to do some visual storytelling. And shortly after #booksnaps was born and has been taking the social media world by storm. Her session showed the power of #booksnaps and how it helps get into the student’s head on their thoughts and feelings toward text and how it relates to their life. Also, by using a book snap, it allows the reader to comprehend the text and internalize what the author is saying. Tara has been amazing and has created a website full of information and how-to videos on making #booksnaps. Although it started with Snapchat, she has made videos using many other apps, including Snapchat, Seesaw, Book Creator and more. Check it out! Free resources are great! Thanks Tara!

Shortly after the conference I made my first #booksnaps while reading the ARC copy of Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz. I used Snapchat, but as Tara’s website shows, many different apps can be used.

Using #booksnaps has helped me look deeper into text, share my thoughts, and also remember more parts of the story. I can only imagine the impact it will have with my students when I introduce it to them. Beside the impact, I know the students will be engaged in the process. I had so much fun finding the right words to write and bitmoji to use.

So for today we thought it would be fun to use three back to school books to show you how to use #booksnaps when reading a picture book. All 3 storymamas picked a book and tried it out.  We are all new at this and are learning as we go, but are excited to use with students. We can see it in our reading workshops and it would be great in content areas! Please feel free to comment on how you are using #booksnaps in the classroom! We hope you enjoy the books we chose and our #booksnaps!

 

 

     

 

 

Thank You Second Star

#authorsaturday brings you a tribute to all the amazing authors and illustrators I have met at Second Star To The Right Books . I wrote about this independent bookstore before in a post titled Friendsgiving From the moment you walk into this store they make everyone feel at home.

Over the past 2 years I have encountered many wonderful authors and illustrators! Meeting them has allowed me to bring new books into my life to share with my kids, students, and storymamas audience! If you are ever in Denver please go visit them. If you aren’t in the area, please look to local independent bookstores or even public libraries for author events.

 

             

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Second Star for embracing me and my boys and for helping me grow as a mom and educator. I will miss everyone as I move to a different city!

Here is a list of the authors/illustrators I met and are featured in my picture collage above:

Abby Cooper

http://www.abbycooperauthor.com/

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

http://jenniferchamblissbertman.com/

Lauren Allbright

http://www.laurenallbright.com/


Todd Fahnestock

http://www.toddfahnestock.com/


Miriam Busch

http://miriambuschauthor.com/
Larry Day

http://larrydayillustration.com/

Claudia Mills

http://www.claudiamillsauthor.com/


Leuyen Pham

http://www.leuyenpham.com/leuyenphamstudios.html

Shannon Hale
http://www.squeetus.com/stage/main.html


Andrea Wang

http://andreaywang.com/


Melanie Crowder

http://melaniecrowder.net/

Carmela LaVigna Coyle

http://carmelacoyle.com/

 

 

3D Printed Miracle

The storymamas had the opportunity to “meet” Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp, the authors of the new non-fiction book Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle.  They collaborated to tell the story of Beauty, a bald eagle that lost part of her beak to a gunshot wound.  Her injuries healed, but her beak did not.  When Janie, a raptor biologist, met Beauty, she felt compelled to help.  Her compassion for the eagle was relentless, and she worked with others to help create a prosthetic beak for Beauty using a 3D printer.  Janie worked with Deborah, an accomplished science writer, to share Beauty’s story with the world through an engaging narrative format and vivid photographs.

Beauty and the Beak would be a wonderful narrative nonfiction text as a read aloud and an addition to your classroom library.  It provides a concrete example of design thinking and perseverance.  By thinking through different ideas, Janie and her team were able to come up with a solution that allowed Beauty to regain the use of a beak.

The end of the book is full of additional resources and an educator’s guide can be found several places; on Deborah’s website, www.deborahleerose.com, Janie’s website at www.birdsofpreynorthwest.org and from the Cornell Lab Publishing Group’s Educators page https://cornelllabpublishinggroup.com/educators-2/?v=7516fd43adaa
We can’t wait for the world to hear Beauty’s story!

3 Questions about Beauty and the Beak

What three words would you use to describe this book?

Deborah: uplifting, inspiring, eye-opening

Janie: labor of love

How did you hear about Beauty/get hooked up together to create this story?

Deborah: I had read about Beauty in several articles on animal prosthetics—the story of her pioneering prosthetic beak was reported worldwide. I wanted to know much more about Beauty herself, about Janie’s work to help her, and about bald eagles, so I called Janie at Birds of Prey Northwest, the raptor center she founded and directs in Idaho. From that first conversation grew a fantastic, ongoing collaboration to coauthor Beauty and the Beak. I ended up learning so much, thanks to Janie’s encyclopedic knowledge about bald eagles and her long experience in speaking about Beauty and other raptors to public audiences.

Janie: I had wanted to work with a science writer on Beauty’s story. When Deborah called me, and I learned that she was both a national science writer and award winning children’s author, I knew together we could capture Beauty’s powerful story in a children’s book. I already had lots of photos from Beauty’s beak surgery, by amazing photographer Glen Hush; once we found the incredible bald eagle photos available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library, we knew we could tell kids about Beauty beginning with her life in the wild, all the way up to what her life is like today at Birds of Prey Northwest.

What was the process you used to create the story together?

Deborah: There were so many wonderful steps to the process—including my meeting Beauty face to face in Idaho!—which happened over the course of the last three years. We spent countless hours by phone and email finding out the best way to tell Beauty’s story through both text and photos. Janie and I wanted children (and adults) to understand how critical Beauty’s beak was even from the time she was born, and how disastrous losing her beak really was.

Janie: We reached out to many people for insight and help including other raptor biologists, wildlife experts, engineers, 3D printing specialists, STEM educators, and wildlife photographers. The Idaho STEM Action Center helped us with 3D printing, to make life-size replicas of Beauty’s prosthetic beak that we can share with public audiences. And even beyond Beauty’s story, we wanted to tell about the natural history of bald eagle populations in the United States—how bald eagles nearly went extinct on the U.S. mainland, how scientists worked to reintroduce bald eagles to areas where they had nearly disappeared, and what risks bald eagles still face today. We were very lucky, thanks to our publisher, to have Cornell Lab of Ornithology add special content to the book about bald eagle conservation.

 

3 Questions About You

If you weren’t able to do your current job, what would you want to be and why?

Deborah: I have been a science writer for a long time, and would always want to  work in some way to communicate science to public audiences.

Janie: My dream is to open a raptor education center that millions of people could visit from all over the country and the world.

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

Janie: A book that has stayed with me since I was growing up is Aesop’s Fables. I especially love the story about the wisdom of the crow, because it’s about problem solving and the intelligence of birds. Science continues to prove how intelligent birds are across their many species. After all the years I have worked with raptors, I continue to be amazed by their intelligence.

Deborah: The book that affected my whole career was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. I adored it as a child, because I could fully imagine myself in the story even though it was as far from my city life as you could imagine. I read it again as an adult, and discovered an even deeper reason that I love it–because the character of Charlotte is truly a writer, who understands the power of words to teach, entertain, inspire and even save a life.

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

Janie: Tiny bits of salmon—to feed orphaned baby ospreys. There is always something in my frig that will be used to feed the raptors who are in my care.

Deb: Whole wheat pastry flour—I love to bake my own muffins. It took me a while to perfect my favorite recipe, and that process was a lot like creating a book!

 

Can’t wait to read about Beauty?  You’re in luck!  We are giving away THREE copies of Beauty and the Beak, thanks to Deborah, Janie, and their team.  Head on over to @storymamas on Instagram to enter!

Keep Calm & Scary On

Today’s #middlegrademonday brings you an interview with author Cynthia Reeg.

3 Questions about From the Grave

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Horror, humor, heart

Your previous books are such different genres, how did you step into the fantasy/monster writing genre?

I have many writerly interests from picture books to middle grade, from poetry to short stories, from fiction to nonfiction. I love luring readers in with action, adventure, and quirky characters. As a former school librarian, I know that students can never get enough spooky stories. So a monsterly MG seemed a perfect fit for both me and my readers.

There are a lot of interesting monster names and words in the book, how did you come up with the vocabulary for this book?

I say I create magic one word at a time, and I truly mean it! Words are my delight. Again, in my experience with young readers, I know how much they delight in words too. For my monster world, I wanted words that appealed to the five senses; creepy and kooky. Words that were fun to read out loud. I would make lists of vocabulary words. Often, I’d play with a word to make it a monster word–like taking the name “Gilbert” and making it into “Ghoulbert” for the main character’s brother. Or switching the word “cafeteria” to “barfeteria,” or “horrorcane” for “hurricane.”
3 Questions about You

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

I was a librarian before I started writing seriously for children, and I loved doing that. If I couldn’t work in a library, I would work in a bookstore. I can’t imagine a life without books or without sharing books with others.

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

I am a great fan of Kate Di Camillo. When I read her book, “Because of Winn Dixie,” I thought it was a perfect combination of heart, interesting characters, and compelling story. It’s a book that leaves a sweet spot in your heart. I hope I can write some books like that.
What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?

Hot Fudge sauce. I do need a little chocolate on a fairly regular basis to keep the words coming! 🙂

To learn more Cynthia Reeg checkout her website or follow her on twitter & instagram

Total. Dance. Anarchy

img_26233 Questions about My 7th Grade Life in Tights

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Ooh, this is tough. Okay, three words I’d go with are:

Dancing, football, friends.

Or maybe I should go with:

TOTAL. DANCE. ANARCHY.

I’m not sure…like I said, this is a tough one!

 

What would Dillon’s favorite “So You Think You Can Dance” performance or contestant be? (We assume you watched the show?)

I love that show! My all-time favorite contestant has to be Fik-shun because of how surprisingly versatile he was. My favorite performance, though, is “Fix You” with Robert and Allison. That routine is so gorgeous and heart-wrenching. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

Although you’ve said Dillon was similar to you, which character was the most fun to create?

Definitely Sarah! I really enjoyed taking the stereotypical “mean girl” and figuring out her backstory. She has so many secrets and reasons for acting the way she does and I can’t help but root for her.

 

3 Questions about You

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

I would love to be an explorer because traveling is something I can’t get enough of. And if I couldn’t do that then perhaps I’d be a librarian. Who’s also a ninja crime-fighting superhero. With an adorable doggy sidekick.

 

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

Hands down, Bridge to Terabithia. That book is the one I read when I need reminding how to craft complex characters and beautiful descriptive language.

 

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

We just had friends over so my fridge is pretty empty. However, it’s rare to look in my freezer and not find a pizza in there. Pizza’s my go-to comfort food and my life wouldn’t be complete without it.

 

To learn more Brooks Benjamin checkout his website or follow him on twitter & instagram

Meet Lou and Pea

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3 Questions about Lou Lou and Pea and The Mural Mystery

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Friendship, Whimsical, Multicultural

Lou Lou and Pea are such good friends, was their relationship modeled after one of yours? Which character are you most like?

Lou Lou and Pea’s friendship isn’t modeled after one particular relationship in my life, but it is a mash-up of many. I have been fortunate to have many wonderful and supportive friends, both as a child and an adult.  These friendships are some of my most valuable relationships so it seemed natural for them to inspire the book!

I’m similar in many ways to both Lou Lou and Pea. I actually made a little character chart* to determine which friend readers are most like and I ended up with a tie.

*Want to see which character you are more like? See chart below

Did you have the ending in mind when you wrote the book? Was there consideration to not have the mystery and have a book that taught us about the culture and traditions in the town?

I didn’t know the ending until I was very close to finishing my initial draft. I always intended this particular book to be a mystery. However, the second Lou Lou and Pea book, LOU LOU AND PEA AND THE BICENTENNIAL BONANZA is not a mystery (though it has mysterious elements) and focuses a lot on the culture and traditions of El Corazón.

 

3 Questions about You

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

I’d want to be a professional figure skater because they have such beautiful, sparkly costumes and they’re so talented, graceful, and strong! Unfortunately, I’m incredibly uncoordinated and I don’t do well in the cold.

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

I have a special place in my heart for the Ramona Quimby books. I recently found my copies of The Ramona Quimby Diary (yes, I have two copies) from first and second grades and reading through them was hilarious.

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

Sriracha. I’m a little bit fiery, but I can be a good complement for others, and I like to wear red.

 

Character Comparison Chart – Created by author Jill Diamond

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 12.14.34 PM

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

Abby Cooper Talks About Her Babies

3 Question’s about Sticks & Stones

What three words would you use to describe Sticks and Stones?
Quirky, magical fun!

How did you come up with the disease cognadjivisibilitis?
It took a lot of thinking and a LOT of revision! I knew I wanted to explore what it would be like if a character had words on her body. But that can’t just randomly happen – there needs to be some sort of explanation. I thought a skin disorder seemed like the most natural cause. From there, I brainstormed the longest, most complicated-sounding name I could think of (because most real disorders have them), came up with symptoms, causes, treatments, etc., and cognadjivisibilitis was born.

What do you want readers to leave your book thinking?
I wrote this book to remind readers how important it is to be kind to others, and how important it is to be kind to themselves. Developing positive self-esteem can be a major challenge for kids (and grown-ups!) I hope Sticks & Stones helps readers appreciate all the wonderful, unique qualities that make them who they are.

3 Question’s about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?
I was a school librarian before I was an author, and that was the best job in the world (besides this one, of course!) I would happily do any job that allowed me to work with kids and books. I would also love to be a professional cupcake baker, though that’s more of a fantasy as I have very few kitchen-related skills. (Maybe I could be a professional cupcake taste-tester instead. Is that a thing?)

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

Frindle by Andrew Clements is my all-time favorite book, and it has been ever since my third grade teacher, Mrs. Huntley, read it to my class. There was just something about it, and whatever that something was, it inspired me to read like I had never read before. It’s interesting, because I’ve gone back to re-read it several times over the years, and each time I discover something new or take away something different. I love that books can do that.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?
I’m kind of a dessert-o-holic. It’s bad. And yet so good. I currently have a giant Ziploc in my fridge filled with cookies, brownies, fudge, so on and so forth. Besides the fact that I’m obsessed with dessert,  I guess this would also tell you that I am strange (in a good way, obviously) and like to think outside the box. I’m pretty sure most people don’t keep these things in the fridge. I’ve arbitrarily decided that doing so will somehow make them last longer, even though desserts never last long around here regardless of where they’re stored.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

What can fans of Sticks & Stones expect from Bubbles?
Bubbles is similar to Sticks & Stones in that it falls in the magical realism genre; it’s a realistic novel except for one magical element, something you typically wouldn’t see happening in our world. In Bubbles, you’ll find another tween girl experiencing something very unusual. Like Elyse in Sticks & Stones, Sophie must navigate her magical challenge and the ways it impacts her relationships. I hope readers will enjoy Bubbles as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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Follow Abby Cooper on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram. Also, check out her website to learn more about her.

An Interview with Bridget Hodder author of The Rat Prince

 

 

3 ?s about The Rat Prince

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Magic, adventure, and surprises!

Did you research rat/mice behavior before writing the book?

Yes! I read all about rats’ super-strength, super-stealth, and super-intelligence, to the point where I scared myself. Fortunately, Prince Char and the rodent inhabitants of the Northern Rat Realm use their powers for good.

How many versions did you write? How did you decide which parts of the original fairytale to keep and which ones to omit?

Lady Rose and Prince Char’s story came to me fully developed, as a lightning bolt of inspiration. When the book went to my editor, she told me that most books go through 3 or 4 revisions before it’s finalized…and of course, that’s how it happened!

I tried to maintain the traditional framework of the fairy tale, while leaving out or modifying elements I found problematic. For example, I was never comfortable with how the original story emphasized Cinderella’s physical beauty as her most outstanding characteristic. So my story turns this idea around, and takes it to the extreme: what constitutes true beauty? Is it something on the outside, or on the inside? Can something (or a little furry someone) we’ve ignored, or even reviled, actually turn out to be a thing of great beauty?

 

3 ?s about You

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

In a way, that question’s already been answered– I’ve been an archaeologist and an autism therapist, among other things–if only I could do all of them at once! But since you’re giving me the opportunity to make a wish, here it is: I’d love to be an Angel Investor in all kinds of awesome startup companies that would go on to make the world a better, healthier, happier place!

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

Ooooh, this is a terribly hard one. I can’t choose! There are so many books that qualify. Classics like A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett, A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle, and THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER by CS Lewis were important to me as a child. Recently, for adults, the biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon called ROMANTIC OUTLAWS held me spellbound for weeks; as did the gorgeously written adult-level lit fic by Anna Solomon, LEAVING LUCY PEAR. I’m also looking forward to a bunch of 2017 Middle Grade and YA debuts!!

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

About six pints of blueberries and strawberries, with another pint of whipping cream. Let the summer begin!

 

Follow Bridget Hodder on Twitter and check out her website to learn more about her.

#storymamassummerselections

Check out our @storymamas Instagram and Twitter feeds for more information about the books we chose this week!

The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli 

Sam & Dave Dig A Hole by Mac Burnett

Double Take! A New Look At Opposites by Susan Hood

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Hiding Phil by Eric Barclay

#authorsaturday Mo Willems