Sparkle Boy Shines Bright

Author Lesléa Newman contacted Storymamas about her newest book, Sparkle Boy. We were so excited to get this one in the mail and share it with our own kiddos as well as the students we teach. A little boy, Casey, loves all the sparkly things his sister is wearing: her skirt, her bracelet, her nail polish and he wants to wear sparkly things too. But her sister doesn’t agree and claims that boys can’t wear sparkly things. We love the adults in the book who fully support Casey’s interests. Eventually once Casey’s sister hears other kids making fun of him she sticks up for him and believes he can be whoever he wants to be and wear whatever he feels comfortable wearing. It’s a story of acceptance, kindness, sibling love and the freedom to be who you want to be! We love the beautiful, textured illustrations and know that this book will be one that makes children believe they can also be themselves and free to break the gender stereotypes. Lesléa was so kind to answer some questions for us about her book, read on to hear about her writing process and a little bit about her as a person!

3 Questions about Sparkle Boy

What was your inspiration for writing Sparkle Boy?

All the “sparkle boys” in my life, young and old! I have a good friend who loves to dress up in silky nightgowns and matching peignoirs. He only feels safe to do so in the privacy of his home. I have thought a lot about that. Then one year, I attended family week in Provincetown and met many little boys who love to wear tutus. One boy’s father said, “I wish he could dress like this all year instead of just for one week.” I thought a lot about that, too. I wrote SPARKLE BOY in hopes of expanding these “safety zones.” The entire world should be a safe place for any one of us to dress as we please without fear of ridicule or harm.

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

I hope children will take away the idea that we all deserve to be who we are, and that skirts, nail polish, and glittery jewelry have no gender. They are for everyone who wants to wear them. I hope the book relays the message that everyone deserves acceptance and respect, and that diversity enriches our world.

What was your process for writing Sparkle Boy?

I wrote SPARKLE BOY the way I write all my books: by longhand in a spiral notebook. I wrote the first draft quickly, without looking back. Then I read it over and revised it. Then I read the new second draft and revised it. After I did this about twenty times (really!) I showed it to my spouse, who is an excellent reader, to my writer’s group which is made up of extremely smart women, and my wonderful agent. After I got their feedback, I revised and revised and revised. Then when the book was ready, my agent sent it out and I was lucky enough to have it accepted by Lee & Low, which is a fabulous children’s book press whose mission is to fill the world with diverse children’s books. Then my editor gave me notes and I revised once more. And then the text of the book was done and ready to be illustrated by the fantastically talented Maria Mola.

3 Questions about You

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

Ooh, this is a hard question. I would want to work with animals because I am such an animal lover. But I can’t stand the sight of blood (I pass our easily!) so I could never be a veterinarian. I would love to be an animal therapist and bring dogs and cats to nursing homes and hospitals. When my dad was recently in the hospital, he was visited by a collie named Alfie and it cheered him up so much. But I think I will stick to being a writer (and continue to write books about animals, such as Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed and The Best Cat in The World).

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

Oh, there are just so many, it’s hard to pick just one. But if I had to, it would be Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl which taught me more about human nature than any other book I have ever read.

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

There is always some form of dark chocolate in my refrigerator. My beloved grandmother, who lived to be 99 years old always ate a tiny bit of chocolate every night so “life shouldn’t be bitter.” I am proud to carry on this tradition!


BONUS Question

What does your workspace look like? 

I actually have two work spaces, one at home, and one away from home. At home, I have a big room with a couch and a desk and chair and lots of bookshelves. My desk faces a wall and on the wall, among my awards is the only painting I have ever done: a portrait of my dog, Angus who came to live with my family when I was 12. Outside of my home, I work at a writer’s collective called The Writers Mill where I share a room with 3 other women. Our motto is “Industry Loves Company.” I have also been known to write in coffee shops and hotel rooms, and on planes, trains, and buses. That’s the beauty of writing: all you need is a pen and notebook and an open heart and mind and you can do it anywhere.

The wall of awards and her first painting!


Thank you Lesléa for writing such an important book and making it entertaining, adorable and one that all kids can connect to in some way.

The Significant Interview with Dusti Bowling

When I love a book, I can’t stop thinking and talking about it.  When I read my ARC of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, I must have driven my book loving friends crazy…I couldn’t stop raving about it.  I read this book over the summer and truly loved every page of it.  The main character, Aven, was such a real, believable character, who was born without arms, making her standout even more as the new kid when her family moved out west.  I was so intrigued to read her story.  But Insignificant Events was more than just a story about her life and unexpected relationships in her new school.  There was mystery, raw emotions, friendship, and so much more, neatly wrapped up in a little present.  Thank you for the gift, Dusti Bowling.

3 Questions about Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

Aven’s disability is one that is not often, or maybe even never, written about.  Where did your inspiration come from?  

The seed was first planted in my mind to write a story about a child with limb differences after my cousin was injured in Iraq back in 2008. At that time, we were told he had lost his eye and was going to lose his arm. In the days following that phone call, I couldn’t stop thinking about what life was going to be like for him with only one arm. I did a lot of research about it and found there were almost no children’s books featuring characters with limb differences back then. But my cousin passed away a couple of weeks later, and I didn’t think about it again for several years. Then one day I saw a video of Barbie Thomas taking care of her baby, driving, folding towels, and working out at the gym. She did everything with her feet because she didn’t have arms. That video was really eye-opening for me. Over the next year or so, I kept thinking about this character who was really capable and strong and funny and unique. She wouldn’t have arms and would do everything with her feet. That character simply wouldn’t leave me alone until I put her down on paper. And as far as I know, Aven is the only character out there with both arms missing.

What kind of research did you do to ensure you were accurate in what Aven’s life would be like?  

I couldn’t find much written about life without arms, so I relied heavily on videos of people, particularly one series of videos called “Tisha Unarmed.” Tisha’s videos were incredibly educational for me, showing how she did everything without arms, from getting dressed to grocery shopping to carving a pumpkin. When I finished my manuscript, I reached out to Tisha to see if she would be willing to read it. Thankfully she agreed and really loved the story.

We’d love to know more about how the plot came to be for Insignificant Events.  Did it start out as a mystery? Was it always going to be about a child born with a disability or is that the way the story evolved?

The story was always about Aven born without arms from my very first thought. I wanted it to just be about her adjusting to a move and meeting Connor (who always had Tourette’s) and becoming friends. But the first draft didn’t have a mystery or even a western theme park! When I first queried the manuscript to agents, I got a lot of “I love your voice, but this story is too quiet” and “I love the characters, but this story doesn’t really have a plot.” I took all the advice I received and completely rewrote the manuscript. I was already thinking about writing a story set in a western theme park, so I decided to use that setting for Aven instead of saving it for another book. I added the mystery to move the plot along better, and it ended up becoming very meaningful to me. I’m so glad I listened to the feedback I received because it improved the story massively.

3 Questions about Dusti Bowling

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

I’ve always wanted to own a “dessert shop” where you can get just about any kind of dessert you want: pastries, pies, ice cream, candies, etc. It would also be a great place for tea parties and children’s birthday parties. I love baking, and I think this would just be so much fun. Maybe I’ll still do this one day!

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

Just one?!? I recently read Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. I loved the simplicity and beauty of the story so much. I won’t be at all surprised if it wins her another Newbery award.

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

The giant jelly smear across the shelf.


The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street – Your Next Read!


As soon as October 1st hits, it’s time to break out the Halloween decorations!  Nothing says fall like pumpkins, skeletons, and anything spooky.  It’s also the best time of year to get my students hooked on one of my favorite types of books…scary stories!  I’m excited to share Lindsay Currie’s debut novel, The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street, with my students and fellow #mglit loving friends.

After seeing the cover and reading the teaser, I couldn’t wait to read this book.  It didn’t disappoint!  Tessa, and the rest of the characters, were well developed and believable, and the plot was engaging from the start.  Lindsay Currie’s talented writing balanced an engaging story line, with eerie, scary elements. And as a former resident of Chicago, it was fun to read about all of the history-rich places around the north side of the city.

I read this book on my iPad, and would often read while feeding my baby in the middle of the night.  There were some nights that I couldn’t put it down…and the next thing I knew, it was an hour later!  The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street is the perfect combination of all things middle grade, and with the added elements of the supernatural, it should be your next read!  We won’t judge if you decide to leave your light on…

Three Questions about The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street

We loved that you picked landmarks around Chicago as the setting in your story.  Was there any significance to the location of Tessa’s house?

Ahhh, yes. First of all, I’ve been a resident of Chicago for almost 20 years. I adore the Windy City – especially my neighborhood! In terms of Tessa’s house, although it’s on the fictional “Shady” street, the home itself is very much modeled after my own home and street! The descriptors of Tessa’s new graystone fairly accurately describe the exterior of my own building which was built in the late 19th century, and the street details are definitely based on my quiet, little tree-lined street in East Lakeview. Although I don’t find my home to be spooky like Tessa Woodward does, I am fascinated by the history of it and often find myself wondering about the families who lived in it before me.

Is any of the information about Graceland factual?  Are there any mysterious happenings?  A glass box?

YES! There are many ghost legends buried in Graceland cemetery, and some of the mysterious happenings in PECULIAR INCIDENT are based on real events that have been reported over the years. While I can’t go into detail on specifics without giving away the identity of the ghost, I can say that I wouldn’t want to wander Graceland in the dark for sure. There’s been reports of vanishing statues, eerie wailing, and mysterious cold wind for decades! In fact, the cemetery reports to having lost many folks from their grounds crew because they quit after deciding that cemetery is indeed . . . you guessed it . . . HAUNTED.

We know you love all things scary, but we feel like it would be a hard genre in which to write original ideas.  Where did you get your ideas for the book?  

It can be challenging, but I’m fortunate to live in an area where the history is so rich (and spooky) that I feel like I have a ton to work with. PECULIAR INCIDENT stemmed from one particular ghost legend that has always fascinated me. After doing some research and visiting the grave in-person (it’s only 10 minutes from my house), I was so spooked by the concept that I knew there was a book to be written on it! Fast forward through many trips to the Chicago HIstory Museum, many late nights up researching and writing, and VOILA! PECULIAR INCIDENT was born!

Three Questions About Lindsay Currie

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

Oh wow. This is a hard one. Many years ago I was actually in flight school learning to fly planes so I could interview with the FBI for a Special Agent position. That would have been cool and all, but my life would have been so different! I’ll admit that asking my family to possibly move all around the country was never appealing. Plus, I never would have followed my dreams and attempted to write a book! Though doing the whole Jack Bauer thing still strikes a special chord in my heart, I’m incredibly grateful for the change in my career path years ago. I have always loved books and writing and having the opportunity to do what I love for a living is the best. Gift. Ever.

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

Oh my goodness, there are so many. I’d have to say that the book that most influenced me was Where the Red Fern Grows. I read it in fourth grade and it impacted me so strongly that i remember thinking (for the very first time) that i might like to try writing when I grew up. Although the author, Wilson Rawls, has passed on, I hope he knew what an incredible gift his book was to those of us who read and loved it!

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

Probably olives. I LOVE olives. Garlic stuffed, spicy, greek . . . you name it and I probably have it in my fridge! And since I can’t have something salty without something sweet, there’s generally a frozen Hershey’s bar in my freezer, too. Sounds healthy, huh? 🙂

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street comes out October 10th!  Visit Lindsay Currie’s website to learn more about her and preorder your copy.

Being Yourself -Upside Down…

Happy Almost Book Birthday Beatrice Zinker!  We are so excited that tomorrow you are being showcased into the world. We had the pleasure of meeting Beatrice prior to release from an ARC. Shelley Johannes, author and illustrator has done a great job capturing what it’s like to be an unique individual. Beatrice has heart, is a good friend, but is often misunderstood because, well, she thinks upside down. This early middle grade novel is perfect for a read aloud promoting individuality in all elementary grades. We can see Beatrice having a line of independent readers waiting to read her book, (while sitting upside down). We thank Shelley for spending time thinking about our interview questions. We learned so much about her and the book from the answers. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

3 Questions about Beatrice Zinker Upside Down Thinker

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Beatrice is always a bright spot for me. She makes me laugh, reminds me to have fun, and motivates me to look for the good in everything. I hope she does the same for readers—so I’m going to say:  funny, fun, and sunny-side-up.

We loved reading about this free-thinking, be-your-own-person-character; who is she modeled after?

Thank you! When Beatrice first showed up in my brain—dressed in a ninja suit, hanging from the ceiling—she was a manifestation of my own guilty conscience. She amused me endlessly, and eventually became her own person, with her own story.

If you were to pick a character from another book to be Beatrice’s friend, who would you say?

There are so many possible answers! Carter Higgins recently joked about writing some Beatrice/Dory fan fiction. Now I really want to arrange a friendship! I think Beatrice and Dory Fantasmagory would get into lots of fabulous, unintended trouble together, and have a ridiculous amount of fun.

3 Questions about You

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

My first career was architecture— but at this point, if I weren’t a writer, I’d want to be a school librarian. Watching kids get excited about books, and helping them find one they love, is a magical experience.

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

The “one book” condition is almost impossible! I’m going to cheat and fit in two. As a child, Anne of Green Gables was that book. As an adult, Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen wrapped itself around my heart.  Both Anne and Annabelle represent my favorite type of hero—the girl who refuses to become jaded. Deliberate optimism is a form of bravery I cherish.

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

There are several pizza boxes and lots of Mountain Dew. Read into that at will.  =)

To learn more about Shelley Johannes please visit her website or feel free to follow her on Twitter and/or Instagram.

Homerun Derby

There is a lot going on in our communities today;  A lot of remembering, a lot of sorrow, a lot of looking forward, a lot of unknown, and a lot of rebuilding.  It’s during our hardships that we tend to lean on people we love, and embrace our families.  Whether thinking about our country sixteen years ago, or those displaced by the recent hurricanes, it’s reassuring to know that we have friends and family to help us through.  

This holds true in the wonderfully written book by Carter Higgins, A Rambler Steals Home.  Derby Clark finds herself unsettled in the place that is the closest she gets to a permanent home.  It’s through friendship and family that she’s able to help those she cares about most while learning lessons about herself, as well.  

Here’s what Carter had to say when we asked her three questions about the book, three questions about her.

3 Questions about A Rambler Steals Home

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Sweet, simple, heartfelt

What traits about Derby are most similar to you? Which traits are not like you at all?

Derby and I both have general cheery outlooks and look for the best in people. We’re both empathetic, thoughtful, and a little stubborn. She’s much more comfortable with constant change than I am, and she’s so even keel and adaptable. I love those things about her, and wish I had some of them!

Rambler had a lot of characters with backstories involving sorrow.  Did you base any of the events in their lives on experiences you’ve had?  

It’s true! Though I hope the sorrow reads as connective tissue of our human experience–that contentment feels more robust when you’ve tasted a little sadness. I think a lot of experiencing life involves sorrow. Kids and grownups feel this with an equal amount of fragility and the fortitude it requires. Nothing is directly related to any of my own experiences, and yet I have a lot in common with these characters. Wouldn’t we all?

3 Questions about You

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

I’d love to drive a bookmobile. That also maybe serves coffee? That sounds amazing.

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

I love the sign on Rosie’s Door by Maurice Sendak. It holds so many kid truths, like dress up wholly turns you into somebody else, days with nothing to do are the best days, and that home is a  wonderful place to curl up at night. Recently, I purchased a new copy because I hadn’t had one for so long, and I was so stunned at how much had truly gotten stuck into me. I love that about books.

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

I have more than one variety of cold brew coffee stacked up inside the door. You never know!


Thank you Carter for taking the time to chat with us! We are so excited for your new picture book, This is Not A Valentine!

If you’d like to learn more about Carter please visit her website or follow her on Twitter and/or Instagram.

Where Oliver Fits – A New Cale Atkinson Picture Book

The Storymamas fell in love with Cale’s work even before we actually read any of his books! How you ask? Cale released a book trailer prior to the release of his book To The Sea. After watching, we were eager to get our hands on the book and it did not disappoint. He has since released two more books that he both wrote and illustrated, Explorers of the Wild and Maxwell the Barber.

Where Oliver Fits is his new picture book released today. Cale was kind enough to answer our 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about himself. He also provided us with pictures to give you an inside look into his process.

Style test for Oliver

3 Questions about Where Oliver Fits

Who did you dedicate the book to and why?

In many ways I wrote Where Oliver Fits for anyone out there who at some point, (future, present or past) felt they didn’t really fit in. I think we all relate to that feeling at some point or another in our lives, myself included, so decided to dedicate it to ‘Anyone trying to find where they fit’. Hopefully those reading can see they’re not the only ones going through the trials and tribulations of trying to fit in, we all do, including Oliver!

What does your workspace look like? 

Funny enough, you can actually see more workspace in the Where Oliver Fits book trailer!

Link to trailer:

I have to admit my workspace doesn’t usually look quite as tidy as in the trailer. Generally there are papers, pencils, and pens strewn around! Also a good chance you’ll find a mug of coffee or tea.I usually have various things that inspire me or fun mementos on the magnet boards above my desk as well as different toys and things on my shelves.

My FAVORITE things at my workspace would probably have to be the statues a great friend of mine made for me as a surprise of each of my book characters (including Tim from To the Sea, The Explorer from Explorers of the Wild, and Oliver from Where Oliver Fits)!

What was your process for writing Where Oliver Fits?

The process writing this book all began with the initial idea: “We are all puzzle pieces, running around, trying to find our fit”.

A lot of the book’s main set up and progression came to me pretty easy after the idea. Like writing any book, it did have it’s many shifts, pivots and rewrites along the way!

Initially the book was written with only narration and the main puzzle piece character didn’t speak or even have a name! Later on it became clear that the story worked much better by giving the main character a larger role and personality in the story.


I also hummed and hawed for quite a long time on what the puzzles should be that Oliver dreams of being part of. For a long time there was going to be a big bearded pirate, a robot riding a unicorn and a cat wearing a suit. Later on there was also dinosaur scene and underwater scene. I’m happy with my final choices, but it definitely took some thinking and playing around to get there!

**Above are photos Cale provided us to see his process. They are both concept and style tests.

3 Questions about You

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

Whewf, that’s a tough one! (I’m going to assume you also mean if I wasn’t an artist too).

It’s hard for me to not jump to another creative ship, such as filmmaking or music. I could see working with animals. Let’s say either working to help rescue/protect animals, or opening my own pug puppy cafe, where they all wear little top hats and bowties.

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

I really thought ‘The Journey’ by Francesca Sanna was a recent beautifully done picture book.  The story and artwork did an amazing job of showcasing the refugee experience. It has stuck with me for it’s powerful story, as well as inspirational artwork!

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

Hmmm what’s in there…?

In the summer heat gotta have some watermelon in there!

Probably a craft beverage of some variety and definitely lots of the local fruits and veg that grow around where we live. Delicious cherries and peaches abound!


Thank you Cale for taking the time to answer our questions and send us these amazing behind the scene photos! Where Oliver Fits comes out today, so be sure to check it out.

To learn more about Cale, you can visit him on his website or follow him on Twitter and/or Instragram

Why’d the Chicken Cross the Road?…

Exit Strategy by Lauren Allbright

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


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

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

3 Questions about Exit Strategy

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Funny, sincere, and redeeming.

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

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

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

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

3 Questions about You

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just kidding.

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

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

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

Answer: De-lighted!


Frazzled: Definitely Not a Disaster

It happens every time I walk by the “new books” section of the library…I grab every book that catches my eye, even though I have about thirty books at home waiting to be read.  I just can’t help myself!  That is exactly what happened when I walked past Frazzled for the first time.  The cover just sucked me in, and when I flipped through the pages, I knew that I both needed to read it, and pick up a copy at the bookstore for my classroom.  Trust me, you’ll feel the same.  I thought this book was spot-on to what middle grade readers would like and can relate to, with the combination of words and illustrations making it fun and enjoyable to read.  While at the ALA conference, I was able to get an advance copy of the next book in the Frazzled series, coming out September 26th.  It didn’t disappoint!  Enjoy our interview with the talented author and illustrator of Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom, and Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes, Booki Vivat!  


3 Questions about Frazzled

What three words would you use to describe your books?

Funny – Abbie is a very expressive, dramatic character. That combined with all the complications of middle school life makes for some pretty hilarious moments. Plus, it’s full of lots of entertaining doodles that help get readers into Abbie’s head!

Honest – Writing Frazzled was a very personal experience for me. I wanted to capture the middle school experience as honestly as I could. Because of this, many aspects of Abbie’s story are rooted in my own experiences at that age. Even though Abbie is a fictional character, so much of her personality and feelings are influenced by who I was when I was younger and the memories I have from middle school!

Empowering – Abbie goes into middle school feeling overwhelmed and underprepared. At first, she really just wants to survive, but what she learns is that even in her angst and uncertainty, she has power and a voice and the ability to change the world around her. I hope readers will read this book and feel empowered in whatever they’re dealing with in their own lives!


When writing a hybrid book like this, what is the process to figuring out what the pages will look like?

My process for each page is a little different—and that’s actually what makes it so exciting and fun to write! When I first started the Frazzled series, I’d never written an illustrated novel like this before, so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out my writing process. It wasn’t until I began writing and drawing simultaneously that the whole process began to flow naturally. Sometimes I’d write a scene and figure out what I wanted to draw later, other times I had an image in my head and would write around that. Frazzled is heavily illustrated, but it’s much less structured than a comic or graphic novel. The layout and structure varies from page to page, so my creative process is constantly adapting and evolving as I tell the story.

Being in the publishing world, you’ve been around books quite a lot! What inspired you to take your doodles and turn them into something more?  

The idea for Frazzled actually came from a pretty dramatic drawing of me that said “I live my life in a constant state of impending doom.” It made me think about when I first started feeling that way, and I realized it all went back to middle school.

I knew that there were a lot of stories about the middle school experience, but growing up, I never really saw many characters who looked like me. I think, to some extent, that lack of representation and visibility was always at the back of my mind, so when it came to telling this story, it felt like Abbie Wu was the right character to help me do it. Through Abbie, I was inspired to not just explore those frazzled middle school feelings, but to write my younger self into a literary landscape where I hadn’t really existed before.


3 Questions about You

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

Is it cheating to say that I would still want to do something with books and kids? I can’t imagine doing anything else! I’d actually love to be a children’s librarian. A good librarian can make such a huge difference for young readers. Growing up, I was really lucky to know some amazing librarians. They hosted book clubs, organized fun reading events, and always had a great new recommendation waiting for me when I finished a book. Plus, it would be really fun talking to kids and getting them excited about books!


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

The most recent book I’ve read that I can’t stop thinking about is Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder. It perfectly captures everything I felt (and sometimes still feel) about growing up and not knowing what that means and having to do it anyway. It’s one of those books that asks all the right questions, but doesn’t necessarily prescribe answers. It lets readers figure those out for themselves, and I love that. It’s been a while, but I’m still thinking about how I felt when I read Orphan Island. Honestly, I want everyone to read it so we can talk about it!

Laurel Snyder talks a little bit about her book on The Nerdy Book Club blog here:

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

I always have some ice cream in my fridge… even though I live next door to an ice cream shop. (Really, I do!) I don’t know what that says about me, though. Maybe that means I like to be prepared. Or maybe it just tells you that I really like ice cream.

What’s an Infinity Year?

3 ?s  about The Infinity Year of Avalon James

What are three words you use to describe your book?

Real, Magical, Exciting (I hope…)

How did you come up with the idea behind the infinity year? Is your book fantasy, and the infinity year a real thing that actually happens?  Or is it realistic fiction and the infinity year was something made up by his grandfather?

Well, that all depends on the reader.  I’ve been very pleased that kids completely buy into the magic of the Infinity Year. It doesn’t even occur to them that it might be something made up by the grandfather. Adults are usually more on the fence about it. And I’m happy to leave them there!

Where it came from – here’s the truth. The Infinity Year originally came to me from the thought that an infinity sign is really a sideways eight — and Avalon and Atticus were eight years old in the first draft. Then, my perceptive agent, Susan Hawk, broke the news to me that Avalon was not an eight year old (in her voice and manner) but a ten year old. So, I had to rework the Infinity Year completely. Of course, that completely freaked me out but after all this time, I like it better the way it is now.

What thoughts about friendship do you want kids to walk away with when they are done reading?

That friendship is fragile and friendship is strong. Avalon and Atticus are not alike but they care deeply for each other and their differences end up being part of the glue that holds them together. I want kids to know it’s important to choose friends who are loyal, brave, kind, and fun and that it’s also important to be that kind of friend.

3 ?s about You

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

A photographer. A singer. A tightrope walker. But it’s probably a good idea I stick with writer.

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

I recently finished Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley and that stuck with me. I’m a sucker for a magical world and I loved how Cassie created a beautiful and challenging story about a grandson and grandfather. And she’s from Georgia, like me, so that’s cool, too.

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

Can it be from my freezer? There’s a cookie in there from the book launch of The Infinity Year of Avalon James, frozen since October. It’s not a regular cookie, mind. It’s a cookie  with a picture of the book on top and it’s the greatest cookie I’ve ever seen in my entire life!

3D Printed Miracle

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

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

The end of the book is full of additional resources and an educator’s guide can be found several places; on Deborah’s website,, Janie’s website at and from the Cornell Lab Publishing Group’s Educators page
We can’t wait for the world to hear Beauty’s story!

3 Questions about Beauty and the Beak

What three words would you use to describe this book?

Deborah: uplifting, inspiring, eye-opening

Janie: labor of love

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

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

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

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

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

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


3 Questions About You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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