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

Chasing the Sun & Inside Scoop

A friend of mine got together with his brothers and created this special picture book called Chasing The Sun. Mike, who is the Masserman brother I know, has always been a great storyteller and one who loves to travel. This book is a product of many of his adventures and takes its readers on an adventure too!

Tiki The Turtle who lives on an island his whole life, begins to wonder where the sun is going each day. He spends the next day chasing the sun. He encounters many of his friends and asks for their help and wisdom for finding it, but in the end, after visiting many spots on the island and talking to many animals, the sun has come back. Will he ever find out where it went? Or be satisfied with seeing it each day before it disappears?!

Told in rhyme and with vibrant, bold color illustrations, this book will keep the interest of all readers. Reading with my son, we discussed how Tiki never gave up on trying to find the sun, at one point he gets tired and we think might stop, but he comes upon a snail who thinks can help. It was great to talk about not stopping when things get hard or you aren’t finding a solution right away. We also loved pointing out all the different animals Tiki chats with during his journey. The Masserman brothers put a fun facts page in the back so we were able to talk more about each animal mentioned.

Personally knowing one of the authors and hearing a lot about the other brothers, I know the book’s message is one they all believe in: taking it all in and appreciating what you have and searching for what might still be out there!

We asked the Masserman brothers to give us the INSIDE SCOOP…

Hailing from Irvine, California, these Wolverines (they all went to Michigan – Go Blue) grew up surfing, hiking, playing music, laying in hammocks, and exploring the world.  They’ve surfed in Mexico, trekked in Alaska, backpacked through Southeast Asia, and are only just getting started!

This book has been a passion project ever since Mike spent his junior year in college abroad watching sunsets in Jerusalem, and scribbled a few notes in his journal about a kid chasing the sun.  Many years later, Oren visited Mike in Sydney, picked up that old journal, and this brand new adventure had suddenly begun.

By then, Oren had moved to Maui and started writing ukulele music, where he had kids dancing on boats to his tunes. Tal was finishing up Dental School at the time, and with his unique take on what kids like (island adventure books), this brothers publishing trio was formed.

Now that they’re all grown up with families (both Oren and Tal have two boys), they’re hoping to galvanize the next generation to care about the world.  Oren is a musician with Barefoot Minded, Tal is an orthodontist at Affiliated Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, and Mike does global policy and social impact at Lyft.

They hope to spread the aloha spirit with this book, and inspire people to appreciate the journey, dream out loud, and keep chasing it all.

Thank you to the Masserman brothers for joining Storymamas on their blog. To purchase the book, please feel free to click on the title of the book below. (It will take you to amazon, but it is not an affiliated link).

Chasing the Sun

Q & Ray Creators: Author/Illustrator Interview

Have you gotten a chance to check out Q & Ray? It is a wonderful beginning reader, graphic novel series written and illustrated by husband and wife team, Stephen and Trisha Shaskan. So far there are three Q and Ray series. Q and Ray Case #1 The Missing Mola Lisa, Case #2 Metorite or Meteor-Wrong? and Case #3 Foul Play At Elm Tree Park. They are written in graphic novel style in which friends Q and Ray end up using their observational skills to solve a mystery. These are great books for students who enjoy reading mysteries and can be used by teachers to help teach the mystery elements. Using a creative spin, Trisha has based the storylines off of real facts from art, science and history. This latest book, gives facts at the end about The All American Girls Professional Baseball League, while the other books talk about art, the Mona Lisa and meteors. They are filled with knowledge, humor, fun expressions (Leaping Limburger), friendship and mystery! Be sure to check them out!

Trisha and Stephen stopped by the blog to answer 3 questions about the series and three questions about them!

Three Questions about Q & Ray series

Stephen

Trisha

We love how curious and willing to learn Q and Ray are, where did the inspiration come from for creating these 2 characters?

After we both graduated college, Stephen and I met while working at an elementary school. For the first time, I was an educational assistant in a second-grade classroom, but also taught storytelling and creative writing after school for kindergarten through fifth-grade students. I found creative ways to engage students through stories, songs, humor, and imagination. Like our characters Q and Ray, the students were curious, eager, and able to learn. I have kept that teaching experience in my heart and I channel it, often subconsciously, while writing books. I am also a very curious person. Each of the Q & Ray graphic novels has a theme I wanted to learn about and one I know kids might be curious about—for example magic, Leonardo da Vinci, how meteors become meteorites, or the AAGPBL (All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.) The characters names Q & Ray are a riff on Q & A, questions and answers, which is at the heart of a mystery. As far as mysteries go, I was heavily influenced by Sherlock Holmes while writing this series. I am a huge fan. As my sister Nicole Speed says, Holmes’ mysteries are “a brain massage.”

It is not uncommon for writers and illustrators to never meet, as a husband and wife team, how does the process for creating this book work?

All the books that we work on together are ideas that we have worked on together from the start.

Both of us read each other’s work and critique all of it—and help each other. For example, you’ll find phrases I contributed in Stephen’s picture books and the phrases Stephen contributed in my picture books. But the big difference in our books that we’ve created together is that we’re both involved in the whole process from the beginning brainstorm, to outlining the plot, to critiquing. But when it’s time to write, I go off on my own. And when it’s time to illustrate, Stephen works individually as well. We don’t interfere with each other during that part, which is fun because we usually surprise each other.

Which Q and Ray have been your favorite to work on and why? (We know it’s like picking a favorite kid 🙂 )

The first Q & RAY was so great to work on because it was my first time ever creating a fully colored finished 48 page graphic novel. I grew up reading comics and dabbled in creating them in my late twenties. When I was finished with the first book it felt like a huge accomplishment. As the series progressed, I continued to learn about creating graphic novels and really trying to push the form more.

For me, Q & RAY #3: Foul Play at Elm Tree Park was my favorite to write because I had learned enough about the graphic novel format to utilize it more fully. Plus: Doris Sams and the AAPGBL (All-American Pro Girls Baseball League) make appearances, which is so important to me. When I was a young athlete, I was often the only girl or one of a few girls surrounded by boys on the field, rink, or court. I didn’t know women once had a pro baseball league. I would’ve loved to have known that. Now I get to share that information with young people everywhere who also often don’t know about it.

Three Questions about You…

If you weren’t writing books for children, what would you be and why?

For twelve years, I was a preschool teacher. If I wasn’t creating books, I would probably be involved in early childhood education in some way as well as creating art. I’m always creating art. Even when I’m working on children’s books, I make time to do different art projects on the side: I’ve done political posters, made magic wands, installed a submarine room in our basement, and always have some little thing I’d like to try or something I find in an old sketch book that sparks some creativity.

I have worked in education and the roles I loved doing most would lead me to being a reading specialist, media specialist, or teaching ELL (English Language Learners).

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

There are so many, this is a difficult question for an author/illustrator. Our bookshelves are lined with books that have stuck with me. I think Harold and the Purple Crayon is a great example of a book that has stuck with me. It’s so well crafted, simple, and elegant. It’s a book that works as a reader and as a read aloud.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame captures the heart of my childhood: friendship and the river. I grew up in a Mississippi River valley town, Winona, MN, like Ratty who lives on The River that grips “things with a gurgle.” The River flows through the story and connects Mole and Ratty as does nature and its cycles. Grahame’s springtime has “birds building, flowers budding, leaves thrusting—everything happy, and progressive, and occupied.”  Grahame’s lyrical language sings on every page. But the heart of this story is the friendship of the shy Mole and good-natured Ratty, the impetuous Mr. Toad, and worldly Badger who doesn’t like society. Despite their differences and shortcomings, the characters are wonderful friends to each other. No matter what happens in the Wild Wood or world beyond they help each other get out of trials and tribulations. In friendship, there is hope and refuge like the sparkle of sunlight reflected on the ripple of a wave.

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

Two bottles of cat medicine for our 19-year-old cat Eartha, who is my studio buddy and always so helpful.

A bottle of kombucha, which is for a house guest. I love welcoming friends and family into our home, so I always have something special in the fridge for an upcoming visitor.

Thank you so much Stephen and Trisha for stopping by our blog. We loved meeting both of you this past summer at NerdCamp and look forward to seeing you again in July!

Here are links to their websites if you’d like to learn more about them and their work:

Stephen : Stephen’s Website 

Trisha: Trisha’s website

Horse Meets Dog…Readers Meet Tim Miller

 

The storymamas are huge fans of Tim Miller’s talents and our kids can’t get enough of his Moo Moo books!  You could imagine our eagerness to read Horse Meets Dog, the new book he illustrated by author Elliot Kalan, and we appreciate the f&g copy sent to us by Harper Collins.

When Horse meets Dog, he thinks that he is a tiny horse, and similarly when Dog meets Horse, he thinks he is just a big horse.  The whole book is the two of them going back and forth in comedic fashion, trying to show each other that they are correct.  You’ll love the funny banter between the two animals and the wonderful illustrations!

Three Questions About Your Work…

The illustrations in Horse Meets Dog really make the story!  What was the collaboration like between you and author Elliott Kalan?

Hello Storymamas! Thank you so much for your interest in the book and for having me as a guest! (You’re welcome…and thank you for stopping by!)

The collaboration between Elliott and me making HORSE MEETS DOG was pretty straight forward. Elliott wrote it before I ever laid eyes on it, and then I got to do whatever I wanted; my favorite kind of collaboration! Although I toiled over the illustrations more than anything else I’ve done so far, the visuals themselves came easy to me because Elliott’s writing is so funny it draws itself. In that sense the collaboration was a breeze and a lot of fun!

What is your process for creating illustrations?

My process is basically this: 1) Read manuscript and let whatever visuals come to mind rise to the surface intuitively.

2) Take note of those impressions by scribbling tiny thumbnails in margins of manuscript.

3) Go at character sketches in a same way, drawing the first thing that comes to mind and then refine until you’re satisfied.

4) Storyboard thumbnail first impressions to see how everything looks together.

5) Next, see how you can smoosh everything into constraints of pagination limit. Nix what isn’t necessary and give prime real estate to the most important moments. At the same time, think about overall balance of book as a whole. How can you give it rythem throughout and differentiate things so that the reader can experience the unfolding of story in the most impactful way.

6) Be open to feedback from Editor and Art Director! Nothing is better than the opportunity to hear their input to broaden your thinking and shed light on things you may not have seen (Dana Fritts and Donna Bray were wonderful to collaborate with, and we had a lot of fun untangling some riddles in the pagination together early on).

7) Make rough sketches for finishes from thumbnails. Basically roughing out the ideas on a larger scale.

8) Then I make finished drawings with ink and brush on a lightbox working from roughs. I rarely draw each composition whole, but do it in fragments. For example, I’ll do a piece of Dog’s ear, then the snout, then the body and so forth. I do this because I’m rarely satisfied with each drawing as a total because I make a lot of mistakes. So, to cope with my sins I  build a collection of fragments for each composition and then stitch everything together like a collage in the computer.

9) Finally, I add the color digitally!

We are huge fans of your work!  What can we expect from you next?

Thank you so much! I feel incredibly lucky to be making books, and it means the world to me that you don’t hate them!

What’s next? Well, I can’t tell you because it’s still top-secret, but I can at least share that it’s partly inspired a former student of mine who wore cat ears to class every day.

Three Questions about Tim Miller…

If you weren’t an illustrator/author, what would you be and why?

I would draw and paint things that I like to look at because that is the one thing that makes me feel most connected to everything.

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

Most recently it’s Jon Agee’s The Wall in the Middle of the Book. I’m in awe of it, and can’t stop thinking about how brilliant he is at realizing the potential of the art form.

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

Eggs. Other than that the fridge is currently empty.


Many thanks to Tim Miller for the interview!  We had a chance to meet him this summer at Nerd Camp and appreciate the support he’s given us.  You can get your own copy of Horse Meets Dog today, and can learn more about him on his website.