Mary Had A Little Lab – Review and Author Interview

 

I first became acquainted with Sue’s work when Race zoomed into our nightly reading rotation. My son simply loved the story and so as a kidlit enthusiast, my job was to find out more about this author. I was so excited to see that she was coming out with a new book in a few short months, Mary Had A Little Lab and so I contacted her. She sent the Storymamas a copy of the book and agreed to do an interview!

Mary is a girl who loves to build and create. When she realizes that inventing by yourself can get lonely, she gathers a tuft of wool to put into her machine, and out comes a wooly sheep! Mary enjoys the sheep while it helps with chores and groceries, but what happens when her classmates want one too?! Well, Mary duplicates the sheep and soon the town becomes overrun by sheep, what will they do? And if you know the popular rhyme, “everywhere that Mary went….” you can try and guess, but as the story continues, Mary finds a way to solve the problem of too many sheep and how fun it can be with friends! 

This book embraces so much that kids will enjoy: science and experimenting, humor, girl power, using an old familiar rhyme to guide the new version of this story and teamwork! Great for all ages. We are so thankful Sue took the time to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about herself.

3 Questions about Mary Had A Little Lab

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

Funny, creative, empowering

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

In a dream! I dreamt the title, and the next day made a connection that a lab could be a laboratory (as opposed to a dog–we have a labrador). Then I furiously wrote the first draft.

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

That if they love to do something, and they follow their dreams, they will eventually find happiness. Or, I hope they get a good laugh and enjoy all the fun details in the illustrations! I guess what I’m saying is, I hope they get out of it what they want to get out of it.

3 Questions about You

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

I think I would still always be writing things, but if I wasn’t making a career out of that, maybe I’d be a veterinarian.

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

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.  

Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret and Deenie by Judy Blume.

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

Homemade salsa. It’s one of the few things I make well and it’s really tasty.

To learn more about Sue and her work, feel free to visit her website, or find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Friends Stick Together

Teaching kids how to be good humans is high on my list.  I’m constantly stressing the importance of being kind to each other in my classroom and with my own children at home, so finding books that model positive behavior is always on my mind.  Thanks to Penguin Young Readers, we were given a copy of Friends Stick Together by Hannah E. Harrison, a story about two friends that are as opposite as can be.  They learn to accept each other, and their differences are what makes their friendship so strong.  Rupert feels frustrated by Levi, a tickbird that doesn’t have the same interests and always seems to be around.  He decides to get rid of Levi because he’s embarrassed and annoyed to have him around. In the end, Rupert learns that life was better with Levi around, and that he needs to be more openminded and  more accepting of others that are different.  What perfect lessons that everyone should learn!

In conjunction with a spring door decoration event at our school, I read Friends Stick Together to my class.  I routinely have my door decorations themed around friendship and being kind to each other, and this book was a great segue.  While the end product is nice to look at, it’s the conversations they have to get to the end product are what’s helping them grow into kind and considerate people.  The few minutes of discussion here, the read aloud there…all of the bits and pieces are important.  It’s all making a difference.

 

The Storymamas review board books, picture books, chapter books, and middle grade novels. The majority of the books we review on our site and social media are purchased from a bookstore or checked out from the library. However, at times when we receive Advanced Readers Copies of books from authors, illustrators, publishers, or publicists we will note that in our review of a book. We are not and have not been compensated for our reviews. For every review, all opinions are our own regardless of how we received the book.

Secondhand Heroes

We were contacted by Justin LaRocca Hansen, author of the graphic novel series, Secondhand Heroes, back in January.  The storymamas were eager to read his books and he generously sent us the trilogy, including his newest book that came out yesterday.  My students LOVE graphic novels, so I have spent this school year trying to add more of them to my #tbr pile.  The Secondhand Heroes books have so many elements that appeal to middle grade readers-fantasy, time travel, and good vs. evil.  Combine that with the graphic novel format, and you have a series that kids will love to read.  The storymamas enjoyed reading Justin’s stories, and were even more impressed with his artwork.  If only our umbrellas did more than protect us from the rain…

Justin was kind enough to answer a few questions for our blog.

Three Questions About the Secondhand Heroes Series

What are three words you would use to describe your series?

Adventure, Fun, Heart.

Where did you get the idea for your books?  Is there any significance to Hudson and Tuck’s superpower items?  

A lot of my ideas come from my actual life and then magic, superpowers or monsters are thrown in. I think that the idea for yard sale items becoming magical objects came from the fact that my family always had a healthy amount of junk in our basement. As a kid I loved going through all that glorious old junk acquired from my parents and grandparents past. There is a deep history and magic there. It was easy for me to believe, back then and now, that there could be real magic in those old discarded things.

Hudson’s umbrella I think came about when my brother once found an old umbrella at the bottom of a sand dune. He picked up the umbrella, ran to the top of the sand dune, leapt off and opened the umbrella as he fell. I assume he thought the umbrella would catch the wind and he would gently float to the ground. He didn’t of course. He fell and twisted his ankle however for a moment I imagined him taking off into the sky. Now I had forgotten about that moment until well after I painted a panel of Hudson taking off with his umbrella. I remembered it later and realized that that’s where the idea may have come from. Ideas and stories are like that. They get planted in your brain and then can come out later.

For Tucker’s scarves I just love the action of swinging and gliding. Scarves that could move, slingshot and stretch fit that perfectly.

Did you always set out to write a trilogy?  Do you write your books first and then illustrate?  What is your process?

I didn’t set out to make a trilogy but as I wrote the story I realized it was much larger than one book. I think of it as one story split up into three parts. I knew that it would take me a really long time to finish illustrating. I pencil, ink and then watercolor each page so it is super time consuming…but also super fun!

I generally come up with images first and sketch those out. I have these moments fully fleshed out in my mind and then I might sketch or paint some of these scenes. Then I start the process of writing and connecting these moments together and seeing where else the story goes. And that part is so fun because as a writer you’re discovering things about these characters and their journey that perhaps you didn’t initially plan on.

Three Questions About Justin LaRocca Hansen

You’ve mentioned that you also teach preschool.  What inspired you create a book and how do you balance your time doing both?

I absolutely love storytelling in all its forms whether it’s music, comics, books, movies or someone you meet on the street talking about their life. I knew from a young age that that is what I wanted to do. My favorite stories are the ones that I heard as a young person and those are the stories I enjoy telling most. Working with children I get to see the impact that stories have on us at a young age and I always wanted to be a part of that. So I feel extremely lucky and appreciative that I actually get to do share stories with people. Balancing the time between teaching and writing/illustrating can be tough, especially when you’re on a deadline. The school I teach at was kind enough to let me cut my days back to 3 a week so that I could work on the books on my free days. But it was a slog, I’d work afternoons after school, weekends, and super late into the evening. A slog I am super happy for, but a slog nonetheless. I will say to anyone that finds themselves on a deadline and with a seemingly insurmountable mountain of work in front of you, take some time for yourself. Spend time with friends and loved ones even if it’s just for a little bit. I have an incredible wife and friends and family that gave me tremendous support for those great big slogs. Also has anyone used the word “slog” that many times in one interview? I’m calling Guinness, that has to be a record.

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

Oh boy. Let’s go with There’s a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer. I have been in love with monsters since that book. My first book was a picture book called Monster Hunter and there are plenty of monsters in Secondhand Heroes as well. It’s possible that the reason for that lies with Mr. Mayer and perhaps Maurice Sendak author of Where the Wild Things Are as was well.

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

This might be cheating but these three items kind of combine into one glorious topping. Horseradish, cocktail sauce, and lemons. You put a little bit of the first two and a squeeze of lemon on top of an oyster, slurp that down and you are having yourself a good day. I almost always have those things stocked in the fridge for when I feel the urge to hit the fish market and get some fresh oysters. I grew up on the ocean so that urge happens often. Tastes like home.

Thanks again to Justin for sharing his books and thoughts with us.  Be sure to checkout his trilogy, which can be found at your favorite local bookstores or online retailers.

 

The Storymamas review board books, picture books, chapter books, and middle grade novels. The majority of the books we review on our site and social media are purchased from a bookstore or checked out from the library. However, at times when we receive Advanced Readers Copies of books from authors, illustrators, publishers, or publicists we will note that in our review of a book. We are not and have not been compensated for our reviews. For every review, all opinions are our own regardless of how we received the book.

The Way to Bea

When you open a book and then find yourself ignoring the world, and before you know it you have finished the book, you know you’ve experienced something special. That’s how it was from the moment we met Bea and we thank Little Brown School & Library for sending us an advance copy of the book.

In the The Way To Bea by Kat Yeh, the main character, Bea is a girl in middle school, navigating everything that is hard about life..family, friends, school, and trying to figure out who she really is. Bea has a hard time adjusting to middle school, as she’s had a falling out with her best friend over the summer. When starting school she becomes quiet and reserved as she adjusts to the changes that come with middle school, as well as the big changes that are happening at home. Bea finds comfort in writing notes and poems with invisible ink, and hides them in what she thinks is a secret spot in the woods. Her secret pen-pal, combined with new friends Bea has made, help her truly understand herself and what it means to be true friends.

Kat paints a wonderful picture and shows readers how our talents and creativity can be outlets when dealing with life’s troubles. For example, Bea is a talented poet and Bea’s mom is also a well respected artist. Kat’s characters are memorable, her story is engaging and we hope you will take the time to read, meet and fall in love with Bea!

Kat was kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book & 3 questions about herself!

3 ?s about The Way To Bea

What are three words you use to describe your book?

Poetic

Adventurous

Hopeful

Tell us more about the inspiration for the characters. Were they based on anyone from your own life?

The Way to Bea is about Beatrix Lee, a twelve year old girl who loses her friend group at the start of 7th grade. Something similar happened to me in 9th grade. My best friends and I began to grow apart. We started hanging out with different crowds and just didn’t have the same kind of time together that we’d always had before.

When I started writing this book, I thought a lot about how different that experience would have been if i had been 12 and in 7th grade (like Bea) instead of 14 and in 9th grade. And what if…instead of a gradual growing apart, there had been a dramatic incident that forced the breaking up of the friendship. What would that have been like? While Bea’s story isn’t quite mine, she is very much like me. Thinking about poems, drawing and scribbling and making up stories and day-dreaming all the time.

When my daughter read the book, she thought that Bea’s parents were very much like me and my real life husband, Peter — she laughed and thought it was hilarious how lovey-dovey they were. So I guess that’s a good thing 🙂 Though when I was writing, I pictured Bea’s father as a combination of my brother in law, who is a very fun and goofy guy and Gene Yuen Lang, who is a wonderful author and graphic novelist (just like Bea’s dad!). I did add some physical elements to some characters based on friends. But mostly, the other characters came out of my imagination with just little hints of people I know.

What was the the original pitch that led to this book? How did it evolve over the drafts?

I was nervous when I pitched this book. I had loved writing my first novel, The Truth About Twinkie Pie. The story and the characters came so naturally to me. And i just didn’t know how to begin this next book. So, I started with the idea that If I had an emotional connection to the story, I would fall back into that wonderful place where the words just flowed. I thought back to my 9th grade year and the changing of friend groups. But I knew I needed something more. Here is the pitch that I sent my editor.

“For 13 year old Dandy, the start of her freshman year in high school feels like she’s on a ride she has no control over. Everything around her is changing and shifting faster than she can handle: her best friends start hanging with a different crowd and she just can’t figure out who she is and how she fits in anywhere — for now, all she wants is to just blend in and disappear. But nothing about Dandy blends into a crowd. She’s different. From being a year younger than everyone in her grade — to the way she looks — to her famous and infamous family — to her talent in the arts which she considers squashing to prevent drawing even more attention to herself. And if that wasn’t enough, in her confusing search for a place to fit in, she finds the person she is spending the most time with is new student David – a boy with Asperger’s who is obsessed with drawing mazes. When Dandy starts leaving torn pieces of paper with her feelings written on them tucked into secret places around campus, she is surprised when she starts receiving responses. LITTLE GIRL IN THE MIDDLE is a story about navigating the painful twists and turns of changing friendships, figuring out how to accept the things that make you You, and then finding the bravery to let the world see.”

As you can see, the initial pitch a little different from the final book. I actually knew nothing of the plot when I wrote this. I liked the idea of hiding pieces of paper with messages on them and receiving answers, but I didn’t know who was sending the messages to her yet. And I remember that I just kinda threw in that David was “obsessed with drawing mazes.” I always liked mazes and thought that would be an interesting thing to write about. Plus I just felt like I needed more detail in this proposal. I wanted to sound like i knew what I was talking about! I had no idea that mazes and labyrinths would become a central theme to the book.

As I worked with my editor, we decided to make Dandy younger and I set her at 12 and in 7th grade. I also changed her name several times! She was Dandy for a long time. Then Tomie. I played with a few other names and then realized that she was definitely a Bea. A Bea trying to figure out how to Be. And that led me to realizing that David was actually Will. Someone who was making small changes – and determined to be a better friend. I liked the future promise of the word Will (I will, you will, he will) and it just had to be his name. After their friendship started shaping for me, I knew that this story would be about life as a maze. And being brave enough to work your way through.

3 ?s about You

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

I’d love to be an artist. I haven’t had a lot of time to paint and draw since I’ve started writing novels and picture books and I really miss that part of my life. I have a beautiful studio that I’ve never set up because we moved into this house just as I started writing my first novel. My easel and flat files and all my art supplies are all just lying there, waiting for me to have time again.

When I think about art and the creation of art, I feel the same way I do when I think about writing. It’s all about finding deep truths, expressing them, and (hopefully) connecting. Both writing and art are such very personal things. I hope to always create in a very honest way because I truly believe this is how you find your people. And how they find you.

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

There are so many books that could fit into this answer. I think I’ll say WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams. I read it in 6th grade and it was my first really BIG novel. I remember thinking about how fat the paperback was and how tiny the type was. It looked like a grown-up book with a serious cover. But the second I started reading, I was transported.

WATERSHIP DOWN is the story of rabbits in search of a new home when their warren is destroyed by humans. I still love and reread this book often. The rabbits have their own language and history. They have legends and stories. They love and take care of each other and argue and fight. And through their story and adventure, they show us that strength is not just about size. That bravery shows up in the smallest of us. And that you can be little and different and strange and still be someone who can make a true difference for the ones you care about. Oh, I love this book. And now I want to go and read it again.

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

Right now, it’s a fruit drawer overflowing with Ruby Red Grapefruit – though, that will be changing soon. Which tells you that I become obsessed — completely and utterly obsessed—with whatever is seasonal and delicious. And then I eat and eat and eat it until the next seasonal thing pops up. I can’t wait for Spring veggies. Baby artichokes and spring peas and asparagus.. The funny thing is that 99% of the time, it’s fruit and veggies that I become excited about EXCEPT for one thing that comes into season late Fall. Mallomars. This always cracks me up. Mallomars are seasonal, because their delicate chocolate coating would melt in the summer 🙂 so it’s always exciting when the first boxes show up in the Fall.

Thanks for chatting with Storymamas! We loved you answers! 

To learn more about Kat and her work. Please visit Kat’s website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Interview with Olga Author Elise Gravel

Happy book birthday to the talented artist and author, Elise Gravel.  Elise has written many of our favorites, from The Cranky Ballerina to The Disgusting Critters series.  Her latest is the second book about Olga and her peculiar pet, Meh.  When we meet up with Olga again in Olga:  We’re Out of Here, she is determined to leave planet Earth in hopes of finding Meh’s hometown.  While planning her excursion, Meh begins acting peculiar, and it’s Olga’s job to find out what’s happening to her dear pet.  We won’t ruin the ending, but you will be pleasantly surprised.  We were so excited to hear that there is a third book about Olga and Meh, and we can’t wait to read it.

As with all of her books, Olga is filled with adorable pictures and a clever story.  If you haven’t had a chance to read any, they range in both topic and length.  We have yet to read one of her books that we don’t love.  What’s even better, you can visit her website and download/print free posters she’s created!  Many thanks to Elise Gravel for sending us an ARC to read.

Three Questions about Olga:  We’re Out of Here

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

Funny, curious, and weird.

Did you originally plan for Olga to be a series?  Are there more books to come?

Yes, it was always meant to be a series! I am now working on #3.

Which came first, the doodles for Olga and Meh, or the story?

It all came from a drawing of Olga and Meh, and then I decided to create a world for them.

Three Questions About Elise Gravel

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

When I was a kid, I wanted to be either a rockstar or a teacher. Rockstar: because I love music and I thought it sounded awesome to play music for a living, and teacher: because I think teachers are among the most important people in our society.

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

All of Roald Dahl’s books. As a kid, I was thrilled by the kid-heroes who were fighting really evil guys. Also, the books were funny!

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

There is a LOT of cheese in my fridge. What does it say about me, though? I’m not sure… Maybe that my ancestors are French?

The Storymamas review board books, picture books, chapter books, and middle grade novels. The majority of the books we review on our site and social media are purchased from a bookstore or checked out from the library. However, at times when we receive Advanced Readers Copies of books from authors, illustrators, publishers, or publicists we will note that in our review of a book. We are not and have not been compensated for our reviews. For every review, all opinions are our own regardless of how we received the book.

Building Confidence From A Scribble! Book Review & Author Interview


I’m Not Just A Scribble… was generously gifted to the Storymamas to read & review. We love how books find a way to remind readers how important it is to appreciate people for the being unique and for reinforcing how important it is to include people.

This story takes us on the journey of a young scribble, who is happy and confident, but then starts to meet other things who are not nice, and confused about who he is, being a messy bunch of lines. The scribble becomes sad. But then becomes mad and stands up for himself! “The fact that I’m different doesn’t make me so bad.” He makes others see that he’d be a fun friend no matter what he looks like. The other objects agree that they weren’t very nice and believe playing is more enjoyable with lots of friends.

Diane Alber’s book would make a great addition to primary classrooms.  She took the time to answer some of our questions below.

3 Questions about I’m Not Just A Scribble

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

Mindfulness, Creative, Kindness

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

My son actually inspired the character for this book, he’s still new to drawing and most of his drawings would be scribbles that he wasn’t too excited about. Then one day he got the idea to put two googly eyes on his drawing and his eyes just lit up. And that’s how scribble the character was created He started to make all his little scribbles into little creatures and he was so happy! It not only made him want to draw more but gave him confidence with his drawings.Then after I had a character I needed to come up with a storyline, and it just so happened that my son had just started school and his first encounter with a “not so nice kid” As we talked through it I realized that this would be a great story line for a book. Not only could children relate with the character but it could teach them empathy and kindness in the process.

Which part was easier for you, the words (story) or the pictures?

Illustrations definitely, I’m an artist first, and rhyming is very difficult. But I just love reading rhyming books so I knew I had to create one that rhymed.

3 Questions about Diane Alber

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

This is a tough question because i’m not a writer first 🙂 I’m an artist. I graduated college with a degree in fine arts specializing in painting.

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

We’re All Wonders, the message was amazing and the illustrations we unbelievable.  

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

It’s hard to point out one item because pretty much all of it is for my children, but it’s hard to miss how much milk we have, usually 4-5 cartons at a time.  I like to be prepared and I can’t stand to run out of milk!  

 

My Colorful Chameleon – An Interview with Leonie Roberts

We were each generously given copies of My Colorful Chameleon by Leonie Roberts to review and enjoy with our children.  And I have to say, the books are definitely being enjoyed!  There are so many elements of the book that are appealing to younger children, especially the rhyming that is found throughout.  In addition, on almost every page, the young girl’s chameleon is hiding, which adds to the mother’s frustration, but makes for a fun search at each turn.  Throughout the book, there are also opportunities for conversations about more rich vocabulary words.  In the story, the girl and her mother take the chameleon to the veterinarian, and the doctor discusses why her pet changes colors, which is a great jumping off point to talk about the word camouflage.  But be careful, this book just might have your children asking for a pet chameleon!

We had the opportunity to interview Leonie Roberts to learn more about her and My Colorful Chameleon.       

Three Questions About My Colorful Chameleon

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

Cute, funny and colorful!

Did you initially set out to create a book that rhymes?  Or did you initially draft it differently?

I didn’t deliberately set out to write this in rhyme but the story seemed to lend itself to rhyme and so even the early drafts were rhyming. Since then I have been writing both in rhyme and prose.

We love how well the illustrations match your words.  Did you have a lot of say in the illustrations?  What was your collaboration like with Mike Byrne?

The illustrations were completely down to Mike. He had free rein on how to interpret the text and I was delighted with the results.

Three Questions About Leonie Roberts

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

I am actually still a primary school teacher and I love working with young children because they never fail to brighten up my day. Children are so clever and funny and there aren’t many more rewarding jobs out there.

If I wasn’t a writer and I could be anything I would probably be a singer. I’ve always loved singing even before I dreamt of becoming a writer.

What is one book that you have read that has stuck with you?

As a child the book that stuck with me was, “Pongwiffy” by Kate Umansky. I can’t remember what happened in it I can just recall how much I enjoyed it.

As an adult, “The Hunger Games” trilogy stuck with me, so much so that it is the only trilogy I have read twice.

What is one thing in your refrigerator that tells us about you.

A creme caramel because I love my sweet treats.

 

The Storymamas review board books, picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels. The majority of the books we review on our site and social media are purchased from a bookstore or checked out from the library. However, at times when we receive Advanced Readers Copies of books from authors, illustrators, publishers, or publicists we will note that in our review of a book. We are not and have not been compensated for our reviews. For every review, all opinions are our own regardless of how we received the book.

Just Try It Wyatt – Author Interview & Review


One of my favorite parts of Storymamas is interviewing authors and illustrators. It is always fascinating to hear the evolution of the book and the inspirations for creating the characters or story. I also love to hear more about their lives. Since we are three people, it is often hard to meet in person due to being in various locations, so many interviews have taken place using video technology or email exchanges. When a local author in my hometown outside of Detroit reached out to me and wanted to meet me and talk about her book, I jumped at the chance. Kelsey and I met at a coffee shop and talked all about literacy and our passions for what we do. Kelsey Fox is the author of the book Just Try It Wyatt.

Just Try It Wyatt is a book about a fox named Wyatt who is stubborn and doesn’t want to try anything new. When all the things he knows and likes aren’t available, Wyatt becomes annoyed and sad. Will his frustrated lead him to try something out of his comfort zone? And if he does, will he like it?
What is great about the story is it is relatable to everyone who reads it- kids, parents, teachers; we’ve all either been Wyatt or known someone like Wyatt. Kelsey has done a wonderful job of creating an engaging story around this difficult concept. I think the way Wyatt acts and feels throughout the book will help strike conversation around this idea of not being afraid to try something new. Preschool and primary classroom teachers can benefit from using this book as a resource in their classroom. Parents of young children can also get a lot out of it with their kids. I’ve started to refer to Wyatt when I’m encouraging my 3 year old son to try new foods.

Another great addition to the book is the true facts about the red fox in the back of the book. Many times I’ve had kids ask questions about animals in books and I have not known what to tell them at that moment, and we’ve had to find another resource to figure it out. Kelsey was thoughtful and has added information to the back of her book.

Something else that is so special about the book is Kelsey. I know I can’t meet ever author out there (although we would love to), but hearing her talk about how this book is a labor of love for her, the countless hours she’s put into writing, rewriting, editing, and finding how to publish, is inspiring. I loved listening and learning about how much she has learned in the business and how much she still wants to find out. She shared with me that she needed to redo most of the book, illustrations, books size, paper weight, just so that stores would even consider putting it on their shelves. It was wonderful to meet her and hear her talk about her book. And so I hope you will take a chance with a book you might not have heard of before and Just Try It!

Kelsey was kind enough to answer our Storymamas questions. Three questions about the book and three about the her.

3 ?s about Just Try It Wyatt

What three words would you use to describe your book?
Educate. Entertain. Inform.

What was your inspiration for creating the book?
As a teacher, I understand that we want stories to correlate with a greater lesson we’re trying to teach our students. I sometimes found it hard to find the perfect book to teach to, so I wrote my own. My plan is to create an entire series that teachers can use the first few weeks of school about good character and being a part of a classroom family!

Can you tell our readers about your choice to self publish and what are some of your big take-aways after going through the process?
Deciding to self-publish was such a hard choice to make. There are pros and cons for both self and traditional publishing paths. Self-publishing allowed me to have more control and creativity throughout the whole writing process. I also am able to have my book out to the public practically years before if I would have went to a large publishing house. My biggest take away is that self-publishing is very hard work! You’re your own editor, formatter, publicist marketing manager and everything in between! You need to be a go-getter and dedicated. Even after meeting with two publishers, I choose to self-publish and have been 100% happy with my choice!

3 ?s about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?
If I was not a writer, I would like to be a farmer. I like animals and gardening. I have a small urban farm now where I grow all my family’s vegetables in the summer, can them in the fall and raise chickens year long. It would be great to live in the country and have lots of land.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?
When I was growing up I love the Little House on the Prairie books! My mom introduced me to them and I was hooked! Reading about someone who went through so much, but lived to tell the tale amazed me. I think that may be why I enjoy memoirs so much today.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?
I always have coffee in my fridge! It’s a staple in my diet. As a mom, teacher, wife, and writer, I am always on the go and need that pick me up to help me with my busy lifestyle. I would like to think that means I am a go-getter and am up for any challenge!

To learn more about Kelsey, please follow Wyatt on Facebook and Twitter!

The 11:11 Wish…An Interview With Kim Tomsic

We’ve all had those moments, when we’ve made a whimsical wish knowing that it won’t come true, but are secretly hope that it does anyway.  But what if on one of those days, the wish…does come true?  Kim Tomsic was kind enough to send us an advanced copy of The 11:11 Wish, and answer questions in our interview below.

In the book,Megan is having trouble fitting in as a new student in middle school from day one after she is “zapped” by a classmate as she arrives in the office.  A new student hazing of sorts, Megan needs to plan something exciting by the end of the day.  Feeling lost, the memory of a rhyme her grandmother once recited while wishing on a cat clock comes back to her as she notices the same type of clock in her classroom.  One wish leads to another and before she knows it, Megan is in way over her head!

The 11:11 Wish tells the timeless struggles of going through middle school, while taking on a modern, fanciful feel.  Middle grade readers will definitely be able to relate to the characters and picture themselves in the novel.  Read below to hear from Kim Tomsic.

3 Questions about The 11:11 Wish

Is Megan’s character based at all off of your middle school experience?  My father was in the military, so I spent much of my life as the new girl, which felt fine when I was younger, but not so fine when I moved from Texas to a new school in Arizona. Somewhat like Megan’s experience of moving two weeks after the start of her seventh-grade school year, my move happened three weeks after my freshman year of high school. Yep, school had already begun which made for one tough experience! Everyone already had their friend groups, and I spent my time worrying that I’d be sitting alone at lunch. I’m not sure why that felt like it would be the worst thing in the world, but the thought of everyone seeing me sit by myself felt humiliating. The funny thing is, now I can’t remember who I ate with during those first few months or why the idea of people seeing me eat alone mattered. I have no problem sitting by myself now, but that experience serves me today as a reminder to reach out to someone in case they feel awkward or alone.

The problems that Megan faced have been problems kids have faced in middle school for years and years.  What research did you need to do to make her experience authentic and realistic in current times?

My research came from having a front row seat to the inside skinny with my kids—I was a good listener when I carpooled my children and their friends to school, to soccer, to dance, to the mall, to lunch, to anywhere! Furthermore, I was an active volunteer at their school. My main character Megan has a “wenis” incident in the story; well, a “wenis” is something my son came home from school laughing about. He thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. Megan’s worry that she might be dressed like a forest ranger—I swear I heard those very words from my daughter’s own lips.  Many of the funny moments in the story contain a kernel of real life.   

What was the inspiration for your book?  Do you personally own a cat clock?

When I grew up, my family had cats but never a cat clock. Oh, how I loved those clocks, especially the ticking-tocking eyes and moving tail, so fun and whimsical! The notion of saving my money and purchasing a cat clock didn’t even occur to me, because it felt untouchable, like an item too magical to own.

As an adult, my niece and my daughter loved to announce that it was time to wish whenever the clock (any clock) ticked to 11:11. That’s when the idea struck me—I needed to write a book about wishing at 11:11, and naturally the magic had to be leveled by the magical cat clock of my memories.

You’ll be happy to know that after I turned in my final edits for The 11:11 Wish, I made a special celebration purchase: One authentic black and white Kitty-Cat Clock!

3 Questions about You

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

I love this question and the possibilities that spring to mind. I think my answer changes every week. This week’s answer:  if I weren’t a writer, I’d study to become an illustrator!  I love to sketch and draw, and though I only have minimal skills, it’s satisfying to take out my colored pencils and watch a shape take life. I find it fascinating when I go to a conference and listen to an illustrator give a presentation about the artistic choices he or she made to produce magic in their art. Professional illustrators are true wizards and I’m awed by their craft.

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

I recently read an advance copy of a book releasing in June, 2018 called The Boy, The Boat, and the Beast by Samantha M. Clark. I found the book similar to Hatchet meets The Wizard of Oz. I can’t stop thinking about how it all comes together in the end.

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

Hmmmm, probably my tangerine LaCroix—I don’t mind being bubbly!

 

Kim’s upcoming events…

THE 11:11 WISH Book Launch BOULDER!
 DATE:

Thursday, 22 February 2018

 TIME:

6:30 pm

 VENUE:

Boulder Bookstore, Pearl Street, Boulder, CO

Book Launch party! Please join me!
1107 Pearl Street, Boulder CO
The 11:11 Wish book launch party DENVER!
 DATE:

Saturday, 3 March 2018

 TIME:

1:30 pm

 VENUE:

BookBar Denver, 4280 Tennyson Street, Denver, CO

Please join me at BookBar for my Denver launch party of The 11:11 Wish!

When: March 3, 2018

Time: 1:30pm

Where: BookBar Denver, 4280 Tennyson Street, Denver CO

Tattered Cover Writing Workshop for Kids, So You Want to be a Writer! 11 Magical Tips to Make Your Writing Come Alive!
 DATE:

Saturday, 24 March 2018

 TIME:

1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

 VENUE:

Tattered Cover Bookstore, 2526 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80206

Writing workshop for kids, ages 8-18 years old: So You Want to be a Writer! 11 Magical Tips to Make Your Writing Come Alive
nErDcampKS
 DATE:

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

 VENUE:

nErDcampKS

nErDcampKS 2018 Hesston, Kansas

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Storymamas review board books, picture books, chapter books and middle grade novels. The majority of the books we review on our site and social media are purchased from a bookstore or checked out from the library. However, at times when we receive Advanced Readers Copies of books from authors, illustrators, publishers, or publicists we will note that in our review of a book. We are not and have not been compensated for our reviews. For every review, all opinions are our own regardless of how we received the book.

Be Kind – A Must Read For All & Illustrator Interview

We don’t even know what to say except Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and Illustrated by Jen Hill should live in every classroom, every home, and every library! What a special book Pat & Jen have created. In a time where there is so much going on, reminding us that “being kind can be easy” but it also says it can be hard and sometimes scary. This book is a great reminder of how we can begin and continue to spread kindness from all different places.

When Tanisha gets grape juice spilled on her, all the kids laugh, except one, our main character. She is a wonderful person who shows empathy toward Tanisha and tries to cheer her up. When her attempt fails, she thinks of what it really means to be kind. Is it the little things, the big things, will small acts of kindness add up to something great? This book tackles these complex questions and helps us see that kindness can be both big and small. 

Pat and Jen have created something beautiful together, as the words and pictures work in perfect harmony. The character who has gotten the spill on her, is covered in purple. The hues of purple woven into the story tell even more of the mood and layers the characters are feeling. And something that struck me is the plain purple endpapers. It made me stop and think and gather my thoughts. Lots of books these days have designs or even the story on the endpapers, this is just purple, and the color helped me stop and reflect before and after the book.

Thank you for creating this book, we look forward to sharing it with our kids and students.

Jen Hill was kind enough to answer 3 questions about her art and three questions about herself.

3?s about your art

What is your go to medium for creating illustrations and why?

I use combinations of Gouache, Photoshop, pencil + paper, and recently have begun experimenting with Adobe Sketch on my iPad. Painting in gouache will always be my favorite, but I use it less and less as digital rendering allows for easier revisions. The medium I choose for the final art depends on the piece. For middle-grade I work in a black and white pen-and-ink style. For picture books I’ll use gouache or photoshop or a combination of both.

Because you illustrate for a variety of authors with varying stories, how do you create art to look different while still adding your signature look?

Color and application of medium is probably the best answer here. Every story has a distinct voice, and I choose my approach accordingly. A “loud” story will have heavier pictures; for a “quiet” story I’ll use a softer touch and more muted palette. For a wry story I’ll give the characters a bit of an edge. I always begin the same way: I print the manuscript so I can doodle along the margins as I read. After a few readings I’ll have a proper feel for the tone and mood. From here it’s matter of instinct. Imagery typically pops into my mind and I attempt to create what I see using the medium which best fits the picture in my head. The end result may resemble what was in my imagination., but sometimes it differs wildly. That’s okay, because I trust the process.

In your email you described this as  “perhaps the most meaningful collaboration I’ve been a part of.” Can you tell us more about that.

When I read the manuscript for BE KIND I was moved by the message of thoughtfulness and empathy. I admire Pat’s skill in creating a deeply felt experience with minimal words. There is no moralizing in this book; the reader is instead invited to ponder a variety of scenarios relating to kindness and compassion. It’s a direct appeal to one’s best self, powerful in its subtlety. The opportunity to make art is even more of a privilege when the message promotes kindness and celebrates humanity.

3?s about you

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you want to be and why?

Oh, so many things. I always knew I would be an illustrator and never considered a different career, but I have had a few side gigs along the way. I’m an armchair psychologist, a hairdresser, and a secret singer-songwriter.  If I had the means I’d be a career college student. There’s so much to learn. History is full of fascinating stories.  

What is one artist that you would outfit your home with if you had all the money in the world?

Saul Steinberg or Georges Braque.

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

Seltzer. I am an addict.

To learn more about Jen Hill, please visit her website or follow her on twitter and Instagram.