GIVEAWAY & Inside Scoop: Pippa’s Night Parade

Do you know children who have amazing imaginations but are sometimes afraid to go to sleep? I know two boys in particular with wonderful imaginations but who have trouble falling asleep. I read Pippa’s Night Parade to my two boys and we couldn’t stop talking about all the amazing and exciting things that Pippa imagines from her story books and how she tries again and again to overcome her fear. Personally, I love how the illustrations hint that her imagination is coming straight from the books she reads. Especially since as a family of readers we are constantly book talking the books we love and my boys often think about a book long after we’ve read it. My boys have had many conversations about scary parts in a story and sometimes have trouble sleeping, just like Pippa. However, Pippa isn’t one who just hides in her fear, she faces it straight on and becomes a problem solver. Even after her first attempt, and second, and third, and fourth don’t work she perseveres and keeps trying to make a plan to overcome her fear and finally change her worries into an opportunity for some fun! A wonderful story about overcoming a fear, being a problem solver and not giving up when at first you don’t succeed. We loved the beautiful, bright illustrations that added so much to the story!

Author Interview…

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

Yes! Pippa’s Night Parade was always about a girl who was afraid of storybook monsters . . . but early versions of the story started out with a different solution to her problem. In my original drafts, Pippa defangs her monsters by imagining them in silly underwear—boxers, bloomers, pantalettes. This particular idea arose from the advice about calming jitters for speaking in front of an intimidating audience—imagine the audience in their underwear! However, my editor felt that there were too many underwear books on the market. So Pippa’s current solution—using fashion and costumes to make her monsters less scary—became the new end to the story. 

Question from a 5.5 year old…How did you get the creatures to come out of the stories? (Or how did you get the idea to have the creatures coming out of the stories?)

Many kids love scary stories, but sometimes their imaginations run wild after the story ends, especially at bedtime when the lights go out. As I was dreaming up this book, it occurred to me that all those books on the shelf (with monsters inside them) might feel worrisome to an imaginative kid trying to fall asleep. And so this story was born. I love how the illustrator, Lucy Fleming, shows the creatures coming out of the books! 

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

That’s a tough one. I love being a writer and it’s all I ever dreamed of (even though I also like my current job as a therapist). If I could pick anything, I’d be a circus artist—I do aerial silks with my children at a local circus studio and it’s an important part of my life. I wish I’d known about circus arts many years ago! 

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

Where the Wild Things Are remains one of my most favorite books ever! I love those monsters so much that I have two stuffed Wild Things in my therapy office, perching on my bookshelf with my books. 

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

Pickled hot peppers! I love anything that’s pickled and especially things with vinegar and heat. I pickled a jar of Hungarian Wax peppers from our farm share this past weekend and I’m excited to eat them on everything I can . . .

About the author and illustrator…

Author Lisa Robinson was born in Kampala, Uganda, to Peace Corps volunteers who later became world-traveling diplomats. When she was a child, her family moved frequently, so books became her best friends. She now works as a psychiatrist and writer. She holds an MFA in creative writing for young people from Lesley University. She is also the author of Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten!, illustrated by Eda Kaban, and has more books forthcoming. She lives in Massachusetts with her family and three cats. Learn more about the author at www.author-lisa-robinson.com, or on Twitter: @elisaitw.

Illustrator Lucy Fleming, like Pippa, has a wonderfully wild imagination, which she uses to create illustrations for children’s books. She has illustrated more than twenty titles, including River Rose and the Magical Christmas by Kelly Clarkson and For the Beauty of the Earth by Folliott Sandford Pierpoint, which was a Junior Library Guild Selection. She is a graduate of the University of Lincoln in England. She lives and works in a small town in England with a cup of ginger tea in hand and her cat close by. Learn more about the illustrator at  www.lucyflemingillustrations.com. Instagram: @illustratelucy

GIVEAWAY!!!

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Pippa’s Night Parade, courtesy of Two Lions/Amazon (U.S. addresses only please). Head to our Instagram or Facebook to enter to win!

Are You A Frank Or A Bean?

Frank and Bean is a clever early chapter book written by Jamie Michalak and illustrated by Bob Kolar. This book was a huge hit with my 2nd and 3rd grade students. They had a blast getting to know both Frank and Bean. Thank you Candlewick Press for sending us the book for review. All opinions are our own.

My students thought the characters were “super funny” and enjoyed that they were so different. They loved looking at Bob’s pictures and how he captured their personalities so well. Many related to either being a Frank or being a Bean. We discussed some themes or morals we can take away from the story. Then the kids had some questions for Jamie……

And Now…..Questions from the Kids:

How did you come up with this idea? 

It started with the idea of two picnic food friends named Frank and Bean. I first had the idea when my sons were in kindergarten and second grade. My youngest son, who’s chatty and loud, was obsessed with RVs, jelly donut holes, and playing the drums — just like Bean. My oldest, on the other hand, was more like Frank. He preferred walks in the woods, soft jazz, and yoga. So I kind of lived with my characters!

Why did you make Bean so loud?

If you’ve ever been on a long car ride with my youngest son, you’d know why! But I also wanted Bean to show readers how difficult it can be to find your own story or words in a loud and busy (and screen-filled) world. Frank shows Bean how to be quiet to hear the words within him. 

It’s okay to be quiet — and even bored. That’s when your imagination really comes to life.

We discussed that 2 themes in the book were don’t be afraid to share things and don’t be afraid to be quiet or silly if you are, why did you choose to put these themes in the book? 

I think they’re themes kids can relate with. For some, sharing what they wrote can be scary. Especially if you’re a quiet hot dog who’s used to being alone. Bean isn’t afraid to be his silly self — but he is scared of the night’s noises. But the thing about good friends is that they can help each other get over fears — and together make something special. Like a song about jelly donut holes, for example.

Will this become a series? We’d like a book 2! 

Aw, thanks! There is a book 2! It’s called FRANK AND BEAN: THE FOOD TRUCK WAR. Bean decides to get a food truck and compete in the forest’s Food Truck Friday contest. But to win, he must beat the scary reigning champ, Mad Dog. Luckily, Frank is there to lend a hand — and make up a new song.

Teacher Question- Why did you make it an early chapter book reader? Did it ever start in a different format?

Early readers are my favorite format to write and to read. James Marshall’s books are the best! But yes, FRANK AND BEAN began as a picture book, until Bean demanded more room to express himself. 

And finally thank you for giving us a book that reminded us to not be afraid to be ourselves!! 

Thank YOU, smart human beans, for the excellent questions! Here’s to all the stories YOU’ll write this year! 🙂 

Thank you for having us on the Frank and Bean Blog Tour. Check out the other places Frank and Bean have been and will be soon!

A Very Important Post

If you mention the name “Margaret Wise Brown”, most people’s minds instantly go to Goodnight Moon, The Important Book, or The Runaway Bunny, and childhood memories of reading her books come flooding back. She wrote over a hundred books, but her unique life was unbeknownst to many. Until now. The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown, written by Mac Barnett, with beautiful illustrations by Sarah Jacoby, shares the story the infamous author that few really know.

We were generously given copies of The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown from Harper Collins to read and review, and we thank Sarah Jacoby for taking the time to share some thoughts with us!

Here’s our interview with illustrator Sarah Jacoby…

Can you give us an inside scoop on the illustrations that we wouldn’t learn from looking and reading the book? 

I actually have an entire blog devoted to the research behind the images. Check it out! (https://veryimportantmargaret.tumblr.com)

Here are some secret easter eggs:

Did you see the bunnies in the modern times library? One of them is supposed to be a little Mac and one of them is supposed to be a little me. (See photo of little Mac and art from the book).

There is also a scene with a horse and a flower cart. That is a real horse that I saw when I was visiting the Hollins University Archives. I had fun imagining Margaret riding her.  I learned from her yearbook that she was in the riding club. (See photo of horse and photo of Margaret in the riding club and art from the book)

You’ll notice that there is a flower pattern running through the book. If you look closely you’ll see it withering over time. 

Also! If you look closely you’ll notice that all of the historical-time images of Margaret doing things have a slight border. That’s to indicate that these images are contained by something-like the book the modern librarian bunny is reading. Everything else is full bleed (fills up the whole page). 

Is that enough secrets for now? There are more.

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

Oh boy, many many many books have stuck with me. Many. Let’s see if I had to choose one (from many!) I might choose 

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. She’s someone that I look at a lot (perhaps that’s obvious?) for her incredible art, but also for her imaginative storytelling. I recall reading the book when I was small and being awestruck by the character if Miss Rumphius-especially when she traveled to distant lands. As an adult I love the type of role model Barbara Cooney supplied there.  

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

I have many of one item: half drunk mugs of coffee. Perhaps that’s gross. Here’s what happens: I make a nice hot cup of pour over coffee in the morning. It takes me like, ten minutes. It’s a waste of time, I know, but I love it. It’s my little ritual as start to warm up and paint. I then take a couple sips and enjoy that hot mug of coffee as I begin painting. I then get distracted by painting and my coffee gets cold. Eventually I’ll put it in the fridge with the dream of making iced coffee in the afternoon. But I usually don’t get around to it. So yes, I have at least three in my fridge right now. What does this say about me? I am passionate and loyal to my activities at hand, but I am also highly distractible.  

Thank you Sarah for taking the time and answering our inside scoop question. We enjoyed learning more about the book and its process.

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

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

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

Sue Hendrickson

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

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

3 Questions about When Sue Found Sue

What inspired you to write When Sue Found Sue?

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

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

How did you research the story of Sue Hendrickson?

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

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

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

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

3 Questions about You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First Men Who Went to the Moon – With Author Interview & Inside Scoop

I was able to bring my son to a lovely author event sponsored by Book Beat, in Metro Detroit area, this past month. To celebrate March is Reading Month, Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rhonda Gowler Greene both spoke at the Oak Park Public Library about being an author and their new books.

Rhonda’s presentation was centered around her newly released book, The First Men Who Went to the Moon. It is a wonderful story that teaches readers about how Apollo 11 took its men on a mission to the moon. The book uses a rhyming and repetitive text structure that is also circular. On the side of each page, is even more information and facts about the text and illustrations. The book is entertaining, engaging and informative. The illustrations by Scott Brundage are gorgeous and make you feel as if you are in space. The story will hook readers of all ages. My son and I loved hearing her speak and have enjoyed reading the book and learning even more about the historical event!

Rhonda was kind enough to answers some interview questions and give us the inside scoop on the book!

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

Well, this year is the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing.  When I wrote the story a few years ago, I didn’t have the anniversary in mind.  But, I’m so glad the manuscript sold when it did and the book is out for Apollo 11’s 50th.  

The story sold the summer of 2017.  I was told then the book would have a Spring 2019 release.  The publisher definitely wanted it out for the anniversary. I was so happy to hear that, but also a bit worried it might not actually happen because getting a picture book published in less than two years is a very tight squeeze.  Several of my books took three to four years from contract to release. But everyone worked VERY hard to keep the book on schedule. Right around Thanksgiving when I was so busy with other things, I had revisions to do. Then I had more due right around Christmas.  The illustrator (Scott Brundage- whose art for the book is amazing!), my editor, the copyeditors, the fact checkers, the designer, etc. were crazy busy, too, meeting deadlines. Everything came together though—and beautifully. I appreciated the team effort!

The 50th is being celebrated all over the country this year, and especially in July because the Apollo 11 mission was July 16–24, 1969.  I’m honored to be speaking and signing at the Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on July 21.

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

  I would be a children’s media specialist/librarian because I love books and I love working with kids.  I actually got my master’s to be a media specialist. (Before that, I was an elementary teacher.). I never worked as one, though, because I became a stay-at-home mom after my husband and I started a family (4 kids within 7 years).  I read A LOT to my kids. I think that sparked an interest in writing stories of my own. Luckily, after a few years (and 220 rejections!), I began selling some of my stories to publishers.

Maybe I’m a librarian at heart though.  I own so many books, my house looks like a library!

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

 Wow, it’s hard to pick just one.  I can think of certain books in all genres that have stuck in my mind.  But, I’ll pick one of my favorite picture books– Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin.  It’s a classic and a 1996 Caldecott Honor Book.  I never get tired of reading it. The writing by Lloyd Moss is so clever.  And the whimsical illustrations by Marjorie Priceman match the text perfectly.  Maybe it sticks in my mind because I have a music background (minored in music/piano) and— because I love going to the symphony!

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


 Homemade yogurt.  I hate to cook (would rather be reading or writing!), but I make my own yogurt, a big batch every couple of weeks.

Thanks so much Rhonda for putting together a wonderful presentation and for stopping by Storymamas for this interview. The book is published by Sleeping Bear Press and is out now! Lastly, we wish Rhonda all the best at Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum in July!

This Book is Spineless-Inside Scoop & Author Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jalapeno hummus.

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

Hungry? Read Our Inside Scoop about Pancakes to Parathas

Thank you to author Alice B. McGinty and Little Bee Books  for sending us this delicious book to read and review. All opinions are our own!

Pancakes to Parathas – Breakfast Around the World takes readers on a trip around the world learning all about typical breakfast faire found in different countries. Each page is filled with an introduction to the popular breakfast food, bright and detailed illustrations by Tomoko Suzuki and a closer look at the country’s traditional dish.

This book taught me so much about foods I need to try! Many of foods Alice includes I have not gotten a chance to eat and I’m excited to have learned about them. Some I hadn’t even heard of, while others I knew the name, but didn’t know a lot about the ingredients or history. I love how each page also gives you the proper pronunciation of each word. It also provides a map at the end to show us where each country is locate on the map.

This book can add so much to any library collection. While reading it with young kids it helps them have a deeper understanding and appreciation for other cultures. In a classroom I see this as a great resource for studying countries, cultures or traditions. Wherever you choose to share this book, you are sure to come away hungry! (See link below for an awesome Israeli Salad recipe).

Alice was kind enough to stop by our blog and tell us the inside scoop of the book, information you wouldn’t know from reading the book. Here’s what she had to say:

The idea for this book began I saw a photographic article from the New Yorker showing pictures of children from around the world eating breakfast. “Could this be a picture book?” I wondered.

I decided after some thought that it could make a great picture book. But breakfast is complicated. Foods in one country can be very unfamiliar to people from other countries. As I looked at the photos and read the descriptions of the foods, I wondered how I could make breakfasts around the world accessible and understandable to young readers.

After a few weeks, I had an idea. I decided to focus on the things that we had in common. I chose one familiar element from each of the breakfasts, such as “breakfast in Australia is salty” and “breakfast in Israel is a homegrown feast” and I worked the text around that. That’s how the book began!

Although I’d visited several of the countries in the book (I had a great time chasing down cornmeal porridge in Jamaica and can give you a recipe if you like!), I wanted to find people who were actually from each country, in order to get the breakfast time details needed to make the book truly authentic. I loved the process of finding and communicating with people from each place, and asking them about their memories of breakfasts as a child. This involved reaching out to friends who grew up in, or still lived in, each country. It also gave me the chance to meet new friends. I had a lovely time at an Indian restaurant in my hometown, talking with the owner about his memories of breakfasts in India. Then, as an extra special surprise, he brought me back to the kitchen and had the chef give a demonstration of how to make parathas – with delicious samples to taste.

I think everyone enjoyed sharing their experiences, and the unique details they gave me helped each country in the book come to life!

If you’d like to try and make your own Israeli salad, click on the link below for a yummy recipe from Miri Leshem-Pelly.

Israeli Salad Recipe

The Inside Scoop: Be a Maker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can you imagine?

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

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

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

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

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

Where Do Your Wishes Go? The Collectors- Inside Scoop & *GIVEAWAY*

I was at an arcade with my 4 year old son this weekend. I gave him a set amount of quarters he can spend. His eyes immediately set on the claw machine. The claw machine that is known to cause frustration and heartbreak among its players. My son was adamant about using his money to get one of the balls inside. As a parent I am doing my best to convince him not to waste his time, but he kept putting his money in and getting no results. Although outwardly I was trying to set him up for failure, I can see the scene now, all quarters gone, no ball and one hysterical crying kid; so what did I do quietly inside my head? I made a wish and asked for him to win a ball. And you know what, two attempts later, when quarters were almost gone, he moves his claw and gets THREE balls! Not one, not two, but 3! He was so happy! As I was for him and I knew I would not leave with a crying kid.

As we exited the arcade a thought passed over me, it took me back to one of the theme’s in the book I just finished. In The Collectors, we find out that some wishes won’t ever come true, as they aren’t wished in a correct manner, but the ones done in a correct way, will come true. When a real wish goes through, you don’t wish for how it comes true, so at times it might end up being granted, but at the expense of someone or something. Truth be told, the way I wished for my son winning, according to the book, wouldn’t have come true, but the fact that it did come true and I could have never predicted the how (him winning 3 balls!) made me stop and think more about this book after finishing it. And that’s what good books do!

The Collectors by Jacqueline West just took home the Schneider Family Book Award Honor for Middle School book! This action packed story follows our main character of Van. Van likes to keep to himself, but while at a park one day, he finds his curiosity take over when he observes unusual behavior from a girl and a squirrel, it appears they are stealing coins from the fountain. Van tries to figure out what he just witnessed and in doing so is thrown into a good vs. evil underworld of the collectors, a group collecting and keeping wishes from coming true. With a hidden world, talking animals, and not knowing who to trust, Van tries to navigate this world and find out who is being genuine and what the real truth is about our wishes.

This book keeps you on the edge of your seat with some valuable messages along the way. Van, our main character wears hearing aides, but it was fascinating how Jacqueline writes how he hears the world around him, and that in Van’s eyes, his disability is viewed as his normal, despite what others feel. Friendship, what makes a true friendship, and that many of us can struggle in different ways but by giving people chances, we can open doors to understanding new things.

Jacqueline stopped by the blog to answer this question. (Read to bottom to see how you can win a copy of the book).

Can you give us any inside scoop on the book that we wouldn’t learn from reading it? 

When I started writing the story that would become The Collectors, I didn’t know that Van was hard of hearing. Most of the other elements of the story were in place — Van’s collecting hobby, his life with his opera-singer mother, his discovery of an underworld filled with secretive people, odd creatures, and gathered wishes — but it wasn’t until I was halfway through the first full draft that I realized: Oh. Van wears hearing aids. It felt like the character had told me this important fact about himself only after I had gotten to know him well. And once I knew that fact, everything else in the story fell into place. All of the logic and all of the magic worked in ways they hadn’t before. It was incredibly exciting, and incredibly scary,because, as a hearing person, I wasn’t sure I could do Van’s perception justice. But I had wonderful help with my research, from librarians to teachers to several deaf and hard of hearing students. (Of course, you can learn that bit from reading the book — at least, you can if you read the acknowledgements!)

***GIVEAWAY INFORMATION**** Thank you Jacqueline for sharing the book with us! She was kind enough to donate a signed copy of The Collectors to one lucky reader! Here are three ways to enter, (US only: Giveaway closes on Tuesday, 2/12 @ midnight ET).

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