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.

Infamous Ratsos – Project Fluffy

Thank you Candlewick for allowing us to be a part of The Infamous Ratsos Blog tour. All opinions are our own.

We are big fans of the entire series and were equally thrilled after reading the latest story involving Ralphie and Louie. We adore all the characters, how they are unique and are always learning from each other and themselves.

In Project Fluffy, Louie decides to help Chuck get Fluffy to like him, even if it comes at the expense of his friendship with his brother.  Louie spends his time writing poems for Chuck, and helping him execute a plan to win her heart.  In the end, Chuck and Louie learn that the best plan isn’t a plan after all, and rather doing what you think they like, you should pay attention to what they like instead, is whats most important.

Kara LaReau took the time to  answer 3  questions about The Infamous Ratos-Project Fluffy and 3 questions about herself!

3 ?s about The Infamous Ratsos – Project Fluffy

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

Poetry, love, skateboards

What can fans of the series expect from this book? (and any hints on the future of the series!?)

As always, Louie and Ralphie try to do the right thing, but make some mistakes along the way. Louie is trying to help Chuck Wood, the most popular boy in school, get a girl’s attention, but Louie has some pretty flawed plans to make that happen. And Ralphie is jealous of all the time Louie is spending with Chuck. So it’s about how we express our feelings to those we care about, and it’s a bit about objectification.

This is the third book in the Infamous Ratsos series, and there will be three more! In fact, I just delivered Book Five a couple of weeks ago; I can’t believe I only have one left to write!

How did you originally come up with the characters Ralphie and Louie?

I was thinking about taking the leap and trying to write a chapter book (I’d only published picture books up to that point) but I knew I needed to find just the right idea. At the same time, my grandfather had just died, so I was thinking about him a lot — in particular, I was thinking about the stories I’d heard about him and his older brother, who were known in their neighborhood as “troublemakers.” No one has ever seemed to be able to tell me just what kind of trouble they got into! So I started imagining their shenanigans, and that’s how Ralphie and Louie were born. (FYI, my grandfather’s name was Ralph and his older brother’s name was Lou!)

3 ?s about You

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

I don’t have one in particular; I like to think about the personality of the parents. Recently, I bought some friends Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers, the new board book version of The Storm Whale by Benji Davies; and Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by my pal Jen Hill.

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

Julia Child, Gilda Radner, and Mr. Rogers. They all brought light into the world, in one way or another.

What has been your most memorable “author” moment in the last year?

The Infamous Ratsos was chosen for One Book South Dakota! I got to go to Sioux Falls and Brookings for the celebrations, where I spoke to more than 2500 kids! But really, any time I get to connect with my readers is a good day.

Kara speaking to 2,500 kids!

Thank you Kara for answering our questions! To learn even more about Kara, please visit her website. Or follow her on Instragram and Twitter.

Garbage Island Interview & Giveaway!

Thank you Boyds Mills Press and Fred Koehler for making us a stop on the Garbage Island Blog Tour! Be sure to check out all the other posts! Fred stole our hearts with his lovely illustrations to One Day, The End in collaboration with Rebecca Kai Dotlich.  Garbage Island is Fred’s debut middle grade novel!

Garbage Island is a story about hope, friendship, taking chances, making sacrifices and getting yourself into danger along the way! This story follows our creative, selfish, and helpful shrew named Archibald and the Mayor of Garbage Island, Mr. Popli. Both have Garbage Island’s best interest at heart, but with their own definition they seem to get into some pretty crazy encounters and adventures. When their home splits apart, the two of them desperately try to make their way back to the home they built. They come upon many dangerous predators and some not so favorable weather. Will they each survive long enough to find their way home?

This story was jammed packed with so much action. Fred has written in a way that when I got to the cliff-hanger, last lines, of each chapter, I kept saying to myself “ok I’ll read one more chapter”.  Fred has also put in his artistic touch, sprinkling through black and white sketches of the story. I think that this book will resonate with students who enjoy reading books about animals, adventure, environment or a it’s also great for a reader who just wants to read something that’s a lot of fun!

Here’s some of the inside scoop about the book, thanks to Fred for answering 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about himself!

3 Questions about Garbage Island

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

Do they all have to be adjectives? ‘Cause if not, I’d go with “Deadly, Wisecrack, and Recycle.” (And if they do have to be adjectives, I’d have to change it to “deadly, wisecrack-y, and recycle-ish.)

Deadly – On just about every page, one of our intrepid heroes is nearly eaten, exploded, dismembered, drowned, or worse.

Snarky – The characters take it all in stride, often mocking their adversaries and the accompanying impending doom.

Recycle-y – (Which isn’t really a word but I’m hoping you’ll give me a pass since the other two ended in ‘y.’) One of the main themes of the book is how the characters use the floating trash around them to build useful things that help them survive.

What was your inspiration for writing Garbage Island?

As an idea generator, I love to the play the ‘What If’ game. Anytime I see something unusual or out of place, I’ll ask myself ‘what if’ questions and see if it leads to a story idea. When I first learned of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch several years ago, one of my questions was the following: What if there were animals marooned on some of that floating garbage? That question led to more questions. What would they eat and drink? Where would they sleep? How would they get along? When my brain started coming up with satisfying answers for these questions, I knew I had a world that would make for a great story.

What was the process you used to determine which animals would play which roles?

“Mr. Popli looked out from his only porthole into the world, scrunched his whiskers, and gasped.” These were the first words that popped into my head when I sat down to write Garbage Island. I can’t tell you where they came from, only that they never once changed, not through all the rounds of edits. I knew Mr. Popli was a courageous and confident mouse, the kind of mouse who could lead an island of castaway creatures.

I also knew Mr. Popli needed a foil, a character who would make sure his plans never went quite as expected. (Otherwise, what fun would it be?) Along came Archibald Shrew, whose ravenous appetite and twitchy behavior would be perfectly irksome to the polished and proper mouse.

Then of course Edward the Dung (beetle) was too funny a name for him to have any other personality than that of a party pooper. Merri, the blackpoll warbler, is the smallest bird to have a transcontinental migration. She would have to fierce and relentless. And Culebra, the banded sea krait, was one of a very few species of sea serpent that lay eggs–an important fact for the story.

3 Questions about You

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

I would choose to be a billionaire, because billionaires travel the world in expensive yachts sipping umbrella drinks from coconut halves… Just kidding.

I wonder if I wouldn’t be some sort of underwater treasure hunter. I’ve always had a love of adventuring, and a knack for finding things. I pick up shiny objects all the time–sometimes they’re gum wrappers but sometimes they’re silver dollars! I love free diving in the ocean and in the the Florida springs. I’ve collected prehistoric shark teeth, ice age tortoise shells, manatee bones, and all sorts of other cool and interesting artifacts. If I had the time and equipment, I’d definitely go looking for sunken pirate gold!

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

Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet tells the story of a young man who survives a plane crash and has to make it on his own in the Canadian wilderness. That book awoke something inside of me–a call to nature and adventure. But then I grew up, and I forgot about that call for the longest time. I got a job, wore a tie to work, and watched TV on the weekends. But the call would not give up, and it returned with an opportunity to join the Peace Corps, spending two years in a village in West Africa working with indigenous populations. The spirit of adventure inspired me to backpack through a desert in Mali, learn to dive 70 feet underwater on a single breath in the Gulf of Mexico, and do many other fun and ridiculous things that now show up in my own books. I can only hope to pass that spirit on to others.

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

“Dad, there is literally nothing in the fridge.” One of my kids told me that yesterday. While we do in fact grocery shop, I always seem to put it off as long as possible. Why? Because every shopping trip is two hours I can’t spend writing, illustrating, spending time with my family, or going off on a solo adventure. Besides, there’s always takeout. 😉

***GIVEAWAY INFO****

Boyds Miller is offering one lucky reader a chance to win a copy of this book! To enter please subscribe to our blog. If you already subscribe, please comment on this blog post! Good luck!

Author Bio: Fred Koehler won a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award for his illustrations for One Day, The End. He is the author-illustrator of How To Cheer Up Dad, which received three starred reviews, and he is the illustrator of This Book Is Not About Dragons and Puppy, Puppy, Puppy and Flashlight Night.  He lives with his children in Lakeland, Florida.

NERD ALERT! (Author Interview)

Enginerds is a hilarious story of a battle between boys and robots and it will make you laugh to the nerd degree! A group of boys who call themselves the EngiNerds, who are mostly friends, are all incredibly smart and most definitely nerdy, find themselves fighting bots who shoot food combustibles out of their butts (what’s not to love)! Ken, the main character, encounters a robot named Greeg in a box full of parts. He begins to put him together but doesn’t have time to finish and the next thing he knows, there is a walking, talking, 90 mph fart-blasting robot walking around his house! He has no idea where Greeg came from and after the initial excitement over finding his very own robot, he realizes he needs to figure out what to do with him and where he came from. Once he realizes a fellow EngiNerd has designed, built and delivered robots around town he’s faced with a new challenge: to save the world from their destruction! We can’t wait for the next book, Revenge of the EngiNerds coming February 2019! Thank you to author, Jarrett Lerner, for making us laugh and for taking the time to answer some questions about your book and yourself!

3 Questions about Enginerds

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

Friends. Food. Farts.

What literary character would Ken and Greeeg be friends with and why?

I like to think that Ken could be friends and have fun with just about anyone, but I REALLY like to think about what might happen if my characters somehow got mixed up with the kids (and adults, and clown-snakes, and lobster-monkeys) in Rob Vlock’s SVEN CARTER series.

And as for Greeeg — I like to imagine him meeting WALL-E, and hopefully learning a thing or two from the little guy!

Besides peanut butter on popcorn, were there any other bizarre (but yummy) food references that didn’t make the final draft?

No. But I’ve got a friend who often eats pickles with his ice cream. I’m sure I’ll work that into a book sooner or later!

3 Questions about You

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

A donut-taster. I don’t think that’s really a job, but since we’re in the world of hypotheticals, I’m making it one. And WHY would I want to be a donut-taster? Because I’d get to taste donuts all day!

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

Come on, Storymamas — you should know that, when asked a question like this, a passionate reader can never just name ONE book. How about I limit myself to three? Here I go: Ann Braden’s THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS, Kelly Yang’s FRONT DESK, Yuyi Morales’s DREAMERS, and Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James’s CROWN: AN ODE TO THE FRESH CUT. Okay, fine — that was four! We better hurry up and move on to the last question before I name a fifth (which would probably be Thyra Heder’s ALFIE or Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s I’M SAD or maybe Christina Uss’s THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE.)

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

A large jar of yeast.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Jarrett Lerner and his nerdiness visit his website or you can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Cover Reveal *Just Like Rube Goldberg*


Storymamas are big fans of Sarah Aronson‘s work!  Check out our blog post with her from last year as she talks all about her Wish List Series.

We were so thrilled that she is allowing us to do the cover reveal for her latest project, Just Like Rube Goldberg – The Incredible True Story of The Man Behind the Machines. When we chatted with Sarah last week she was so giddy talking about this book. She spoke with passion in her voice and you could feel that this book is a labor of love. Before we reveal the cover we asked Sarah to tell us the story about the story…

The story behind the story is a story I’ve been telling a lot over the last four years. Just like Rube Goldberg, the story of this book is a story of play and re-invention.

To be honest, I never thought I would write a picture book.

My original writing goals were strictly YA.

But when a book I had poured my heart into (for many years) failed to find an editor, I decided it was time to change the way I was doing things.

I gave myself a challenge.

Six months of play. Six months of writing without expectations. For six months, I would write for myself. For fun. I challenged myself to write everything I never thought I could write.

Even though it now seems fun to write this way, I was pretty stressed out when I started. Daring myself to write a new way felt risky. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I wanted to live a creative life, but I didn’t want to suffer. Or be sad. I wanted to enjoy the process of writing.

So as they say, “Reader, I went for it!”

I wrote lots of picture books. I wrote an essay that someday, I want to do on The Moth. I wrote the beginning of an adult novel (which someday I will finish), as well as the first of what would become The Wish List books.

And then, like magic, there was Rube.

The idea of writing about Rube Goldberg came after hearing my friend, Tami Lewis Brown, read a book she was writing about Keith Haring. Her words made my brain swirl. I wondered if I could write a picture book biography.

This is the part where a lot of my friends shake their heads and ask, “What took you so long?”

You see, I had always been a huge fan of Rube’s work. My father had introduced me to Rube Goldberg contraptions and comics when I was a kid. (He actually compared the tax code to a Rube Goldberg machine in a text about Economics.) As a writer, I am interested in writing about Jewish people and experiences.

Also: I’m really good friends with a lot of great writers of non-fiction. (Looking at you, Tanya Lee Stone!)

Bottom line, like the most complicated Rube Goldberg machines, I don’t do anything the easy way.  (Check my bio! I have had a lot of jobs!)

So I did it!

I read everything I could find. I talked to cartoonists. I thought about creativity. I went to the Rube Goldberg machine contest and heard Jennifer George speak about her grandfather.

And just like Rube, I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote.

And then I got really lucky. Allyn Johnston (Beach Lane Books) loved the manuscript! Robert Neubecker agreed to take my words and create a work of art!

I literally can’t look at this book without smiling and laughing and crying!

Here’s my favorite Rube Goldberg quote.


Creating this book has been so much fun! Seeing it come to life has been magical and humbling and absolutely thrilling! I can’t wait to introduce readers to Rube and all the ways they can explore creativity!

And without further ado…………..

This gem of a book releases in March. Be sure to preorder it now from your local bookstore.

Thank you so much, Sarah, for this amazing opportunity to share such a wonderful book with a powerful and inspiring message!

Also, feel free to visit https://www.rubegoldberg.com/ to learn more about Rube, enter contests, and other fun stuff!

I Hope You Meet The Dollar Kids Soon! (And Author Interview)

In my head this is how I met Jennifer Richard Jacobson… Courtney and I were eating lunch in the common area of Nerdcamp. I had brought some delicious Costco cookies from home and shared one with Courtney. I took one and then I had 2 cookies left. I looked over and asked the 2 women next to me if they’d like a cookie. Each agreed and we started chatting. Very quickly I learned that these sweet-toothed women were Jacqueline Davies of The Lemonade Wars Series and Jennifer Richard Jacobson of the popular series Andy Shane. After talking about our group and mission Jennifer handed us an Arc of The Dollar Kids.

I must admit I hadn’t heard anything about the book (which in a way I like sometimes, but from a publicity stand point I hope this post allows it to be put on more people’s TBR lists!) I was intrigued by the cover. And another thing I will admit is that I didn’t read the back of the book until after I had started it. The story starts with a short comic that sets up a major problem for our main character, Lowen. By page 4 we’ve found out Lowen’s friend was shot and killed and this sets the stage for the rest of the book. Lowen is ridden with guilt over his friend’s death and when an opportunity comes along to bid on a house costing a dollar in a small town where they can explore new opportunities as a family, the family agrees it’s worth a shot.  

This book is intense, heartfelt, frustrating and touching all at the same time. I think that with such heavy topics and a total of almost 400 pages, the target audience would be 5th grade and up. I think the characters were so enduring in their own ways and I loved meeting and getting to know each one of them. Jennifer does a wonderful job of allowing you to grow with each character. Also, besides the comic that starts the book, there are others scattered through that puts you inside Lowen’s thoughts. I thought this was a clever way to portray some of his feelings. When I finished the book I felt a sense of fulfillment that I had gotten to know the Dollar Kids and part sad that I was leaving them. But it will be a book I recommend to many. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Thank you Jennifer for taking the time to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about you!

3 Questions about The Dollar Kids

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

Thought-provoking, entertaining, uplifting

How did you come up with the idea for the dollar houses storyline?

My husband’s hometown is a former mill town and each time we visited, we observed more decline. We’d brainstorm ways the town might stimulate growth.  I’d heard about dollar programs happening in other parts of the country and began to wonder what would happen if this little town decided to sell homes for one dollar. That “What if . . .” turned into this story.

All the characters are all very complex.  Which one was the easiest to create, which was the hardest?  

Thank you for saying that all of the characters are complex!  I work hard to create characters who, like real people, have contradictions.  Mum was probably the easiest to create because her persistence and determination are similar to mine.  We are not easily dissuaded.

Lowen was no doubt the hardest character to develop. All of my protagonists concerns tap into my deepest fears. In this story, Lowen is trying to cope with his guilt over a friend’s death.  While writing the story, I was wracked with guilt for having decided to have my beloved dog put down. I hated knowing that I was the one who determined when her life would end.

3 Questions about You

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

A teacher.  And actually, I am!  I no longer have my own classroom, but I travel around the country providing instruction and support on Writer’s Workshop.

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

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson.  Renée does such an incredible job of showing us how blind (and shallow) “good intentions” can be.  I was trying to do something similar with The Dollar Kids.

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

Champagne.  Though my books tackle difficult issues, I do believe that life — and people– give us so much to celebrate!

To Learn more about Jennifer Richard Jacobson visit her website or you can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Author Interview with Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Thank you Rebecca Kai Dotlich for sending us your books to review. All opinions are our own.

As parents and educators, The Knowing Book touched our hearts. It is one that will give you all the feels; love, happiness, sadness of time going by too fast, change and saying goodbyes. The perfect book for so many of life’s milestones, including the beginning of a new school year with it’s positive and uplifting message. A simply beautiful book in story and illustrations!

One Day, The End is a wonderful book with minimal words but so much story. Reading the book is a fantastic way to help facilitate language and looking closely at illustrations. After reading children will be inspired to write their own stories. We love the creativity of this book and all the children we have read it to have really enjoyed the short and simple words and the detailed illustrations which help to complete each mini story .

3 Questions about Your Books

What was your first experience with poetry and when did you know you wanted to make a career out of writing?

When I was young, my knowledge of poetry was in the lilting rhymes of golden books and song lyrics.  A few lines from Jack and the Beanstalk captivated me: “Fee-fi-fo-fum/I smell the blood of an Englishman/be he alive or be he dead/I’ll grind his bones into my bread.” Shivers. And then there was The Gingerbread Man: “Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man.”  I loved it.  My brother played small, colorful plastic records, and from his room I heard (and sang along with) “Take me out to the ballgame/take me out to the crowd/buy me some peanuts and cra—ker—jacks/I don’t care if I ever come back …” and there were nursery rhymes that we sang (“Oh, do you know the Muffin Man?”) and I always felt very grown up and worldly by singing Frere Jacques.  I didn’t even know of course that Dor mez vous meant Brother John; I assumed it meant something much more french-fascinating.

I didn’t know many true poems when I was young. I do remember reading one poem by Robert Louis Stevenson about going to bed in summer: “In winter I get up at night/and dress by yellow candlelight…”.  My first real experience with poetry would have been in High School. Mrs. Bradford read poetry to us and I was drawn to the poetry of William Wordsworth, Edna St. Vincent Millay and others.  When I decided I wanted to be a writer is a fuzzy line.  I was writing poetry and stapling paper together to make little books, and even writing dedications when I was about 15.  I started writing pretty bad poetry about love and war at about 16-17.  In college I studied song lyrics and creative writing.  When my children were babies I truly decided I wanted to write for these little amazing humans.

The Knowing Book is such a heartfelt and beautiful book, it’s one of those books that you want to gift for so many special occasions, what was challenging and what was easy about writing this one?

This is the only book I didn’t write in the traditional way (with a picture book text in mind.) It came from life and it was almost like a letter of comfort to myself and any child or grown up reader that might be struggling in their life.  There were so many things I wanted to say about being sad and confused, about hope and love and choices and the universe.

What does your workplace look like?

Messy.  Full of practical things like a printer and my computer and a laptop, and wonderful things like wall-to wall-bookshelves and the desk my father used years ago, and small things (I am obsessed with small things) like tiny globes, books, cars, toys, jars of marbles, keys (lots of keys) of all shapes and sizes, and clay castles and turtles that my children made when they were small.  I have stacks of journals and notebooks and coffee cups with colored pens and cork boards with photos of my grandchildren and notes I’ve received from children … tiny white lights are strung up and around my bookshelves that hold lots and lots of poetry and picture books and books from when I was young.

3 Questions about You

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

I would say a song writer, photographer or artist.  I’m happiest when I’m immersed in creativity, color, making things, fitting words together . . .I’ve always been fascinated with the mix of words and the creative visual experience.

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

Prince of Tides.  Because of Pat Conroy’s poetic language.

And 1 more: The Glass Castle because Jeannette Walls was amazing at showing us her (broken & dysfunctional) family in fine detail.

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

Leftover lasagna.  Or would it be the plums.

To learn more about Rebecca Kai Dotlich, visit her website or follow her on, Twitter, or Facebook.

100 Friends- Warren & Dragon Review/Author Interview

Thank you Penguin Publishing & Ariel for sharing the Advanced Review Copy with Storymamas! All opinions are our own.

Warren & Dragon -100 Friends will be released on Tuesday, but we’ve already had the pleasure of meeting these fun characters! Ariel Bernstein, author of I Have A Balloon  has teamed up with Mike Malbrough  to create this wonderful and engaging early chapter book series!

Warren and his twin sister, Ellie are about to move to a new house. Ellie challenges Warren to make 100 new friends. Warren, isn’t sure he wants the challenge, since he has one friend, Dragon. Dragon has been Warren’s friend through thick and thin, although to others he is only a stuffed dragon. So Warren works hard at his new school to make new friends, and finds out it is not as easy as it sounds, and that having one friend is sometimes easier (even if he does eat marshmallows a lot!)

What I loved about the book is the characters! I just found Warren to be such an authentic character. His actions and thoughts made me laugh and I often pictured many students I’ve taught who share his same character traits: easily distracted, quirky, a bit clueless and kind! His twin sister is more of a type A personality. I felt the contrast between them really resonated with me as I read the story. The plot is also light hearted but has some real truths, that making friends isn’t easy. I think this would make for a great addition to any classroom, home, or library, especially at the beginning of a new school year! Pre-Order now or head to your local bookstore on Tuesday!

Ariel was kind enough to answer three questions about the series and three questions about herself.

3 Questions about Warren & Dragon

What three words would you use to describe the Warren & Dragon series?

Giggle-inducing (is that technically 2 words? I’ll think of two more just in case), marshmallow-licious (I’m pretty sure I made that one up), and adorable (I am biased after all).

How did the idea for this series begin to take shape?

I was thinking about a picture book manuscript I’d written called NOTHING’S SCARIER THAN KINDERGARTEN. The story wasn’t really working but I liked the concept – a boy is afraid to start kindergarten. His three talking figurines – a pirate, a witch, and a dragon – tell him they’re way scarier than kindergarten so he has nothing to be afraid of. Turns out, the three figurines are terrified once they get to the school while the boy realizes it’s a fun place to be. I decided to take the boy and pirate character and make it into a chapter book. I quickly tired of writing the pirate’s dialogue, and started over with a dragon. It took off from there!

We love the personalities you gave Warren, his sister & dragon.  Are they modeled after people in your life?

Thank you! Ellie is based somewhat on my older and wonderful sister, Debi. Like Ellie, Debi always was very sociable and had an easy time making friends. I guess Warren is a bit like me as a kid, as I day dreamed a lot. Although I never had a talking dragon to hang out with.

3 Questions about You

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

As a kid I always wanted to be a judge. I was the youngest in my family, and I liked the idea of deciding things. Now that I’m older, I kind of get to be a judge as a mom. Although my verdicts aren’t always adhered to!

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

There are a lot of books that could answer this! I love John Connolly’s THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS. He creates a story that references many fairy tales in a really unique and original way. Plus it’s just a bit creepy which I always appreciate.

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

Cucumbers. They tell you that I’ve finally grown up enough to make myself eat healthily, at least once a day. The cucumbers also do a good job of hiding any sweets for when I don’t eat healthily, which is also at least once a day.

To learn more about Ariel Bernstein, visit her website or follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Meet Yasmin…and Author Interview

Meet Yasmin! is a new early chapter book by Saadia Faruqi.  We were generously given a copy to read and review, and all opinions are our own.

Yasmin is a Pakistani American second-grader who is a problem solver, and throughout all of the stories, is a child that never gave up.  Meet Yasmin! is comprised of four mini-books, whose colorful illustrations by Hatem Aly are an engaging addition to the text.  All four books deal with real-life situations children Yasmin’s age typically face each day .  She is a character that is easy to relate to, and throughout the book you learn a lot about her parents and culture.  Books should be windows and mirrors*, and Meet Yasmin is that for many children around the world.  We think every  classroom should have a copy of this book in their library.

We had the opportunity to interview Saadia Faruqi, here are three questions about the book & 3 questions about the her

3 Questions about Meet Yasmin

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

Relevant. Fun. Timely.

What literary character would Yasmin be friends with and why?

In contemporary characters, Yasmin would probably be friends with Katie Woo, from the Katie Woo series by Fran Manushkin. Going back a bit, she’d probably have much in common with Meg from A Wrinkle in Time. These are all girls who aren’t superheroes, and they often struggle with what life throws at them, but they don’t give up.

What was your motivation for making Yasmin into an early chapter book vs. wanting it to be a middle grade book or even a picture book?

Actually this book started out as a picture book, and then somehow evolved into an early reader series. So it’s gone through some iterations before it found the skin it was comfortable in. I feel that the age group of K-2 is perfect for what Yasmin stands for. It’s the time when kids are just learning about their identities and the world around them, and this age is the perfect age to learn about Yasmin and her family.

3 Questions about You

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

Is that even possible? I’m a writer forever! But if I wasn’t a writer I’d be working in some sort of marketing job because I really enjoy the promotion aspect of book publishing as well. And then I’d write a book about how to do that!

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

I recently read Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart and was really shook by it. I think books that handle death and loss in a way children can handle it are so important, and I can’t stop telling everyone about this book!

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

There is a lot of Diet Coke in there, which is only for me and nobody else is allowed to drink! It’s my go-to source of caffeine since I don’t drink tea or coffee, and it helps me think when I’m trying to relax.

Thank you Saadia for taking the time to chat with us!

To learn more about Saadia Faruqi please visit her website or you can follow her on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook

* Credit given to: Rudine Sims Bishop for the term

Super Manny Cleans Up! & Interview with Kelly DiPucchio

Thank you Kelly DiPuccio and publisher Simon and Schuster for sending us Super Manny Cleans Up for review!  All opinions are our own.

Super manny is saving the world again but this time he’s cleaning up the Earth! Gertie, the hedgehog and Super Manny are faced with the challenge of destroying litter bugs who have taken over the city park! We love how Kelly DiPucchio gives Gertie a bigger voice in this sequel! Every reader will feel empowered to help keep our planet clean after learning how Super Manny and Gertie work together to defeat the litterbugs. We loved the important message this book shares and how tangible Kelly makes it for even the youngest of children to feel helpful! Stephanie’s illustrations bring all those monsters and litter bugs to life so we can imagine just what Manny and Gertie do as they see the world!

Super Manny Cleans Up! is out today!

Kelly was kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book & 3 questions about her.

3 Questions about Super Manny Cleans Up!

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

Inspiring, sweet & SUPER!

What was your inspiration for writing about Manny cleaning up the Earth?

Like with the first book, Super Manny Stands Up! I wanted to write about another real-life situation that might inspire kids to make a positive impact in the world by tapping into their own unique superpowers. Being kind to the planet seemed like a good (and important!) topic to address in Manny’s second mission.

What was the process you used to determine which animals would play which roles, especially Gertie?

From the beginning I knew I would give Gertie a bigger role and a stronger voice in the second book. In Super Manny Cleans Up! Gertie, not Manny, declares that something must be done to help the environment. I felt it was important to show that Gertie was more than just Manny’s sidekick. She is a compassionate leader who is equally capable of wrangling dinosaurs and taming ferocious lions.

3 Questions about You

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

A beachcomber or a time traveler. Why? The former would be incredibly relaxing and the latter would be extraordinarily cool.

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

Choosing one is very difficult because so many books stay with me forever but most recently one that I keep coming back to is The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken. The line, “Do you see-how with each mistake she is becoming?’ slays me every single time.

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

Chia seeds.

 

To learn more about Kelly and all the other wonderful books she’s written, visit her website or follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! 

Meeting Kelly last summer at Book Beat, Michigan