Wide Awake Bear & Chat with Author: Pat Zietlow Miller

If you’ve ever had the child who just can’t fall asleep, Pat Zietlow Miller’s newest picture book is just what you need. It is a sweet story about a bear who just can’t fall asleep during winter. He has many thoughts of spring and it makes it even harder to fall back to sleep. This story is a great read for the younger kids in your life. The pictures are warm and gentle and match the rhythm of Pat’s text.

Pat was gracious enough to gift Storymamas with the F & G of the book and we can’t wait for it to be welcomed into the world so we can buy a copy for our own kids! The book will be released on January 2nd!

Along with our advanced copy, Pat was willing to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her.

3 Questions about Wide-Awake Bear

The dedication to your mother-in-law is so sweet, can you tell us more about why you chose her?

My mother-in-law, Lynn Miller, lives in Door County, Wisconsin, an area full of charming, small towns with a resort feel. She has taken my books and walked into every little library up there and basically insisted that the unsuspecting librarians purchase my books. She’s also convinced bookstores to carry them and came very close to getting a local bakery to make themed-cookies that coordinate with my books. She’s a force of nature. All that effort and support are worth a dedication at the very least.

What does your workspace look like?

I always wish I could say that I write in a funky coffee shop in Manhattan or in a cottage on a  sweeping, sheep-filled moor in Scotland. But, no. I write at my kitchen table in Madison, Wisconsin surrounded by mail, newspapers, snack wrappers, cats that want to sit on my computer keyboard  and the occasional dirty sock. Why is there a dirty sock on my kitchen table? Who knows? I’ve stopped asking. We will be moving later this fall, and my goal is to have my own reading/writing room that is a debris-free zone. We’ll see if that happens.

What was your process for writing Wide-Awake Bear?

The story is based on an absolutely epic meltdown of a tantrum my youngest daughter had several years ago when I woke her up from a nap to go to volleyball practice. Later, when I asked her why she’d gotten so upset, she uttered this memorable line: “I was a hibernating bear. You woke me up, and I went into a bear frenzy.”

That comment inspired the book. I tell the whole story in this blog post.

This is the same daughter who inspired my first picture book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH. I may need to start giving her co-author credit.

3 Questions about You

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

This is probably cheating, but I’d want to be an editor. I love making copy as good as it can be. And I’m an AP Style geek. I love knowing that sauce-covered, grilled meat is “barbecue” not “barbeque” or “BBQ” or any other variant.

And, I’ve always thought being the person who names nail polish colors would be an awesome job. Maybe I could do nail polish colors to coordinate with children’s books, like:

  •    Blueberries for Sal.
  •    The Man with the Yellow Nails. (Who needs a hat?)
  •    Pinkalicious.
  •    My Many-Colored Toes

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

STARS, a picture book written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Marla Frazee. It’s picture book perfection, and the simplicity of the language is something I constantly aspire to. And it has memorable lines for adults and kids. Read it. Buy it. Share it. Love it.

But I have a whole shelf of much-loved books that I keep for inspiration. And I have a list of practically perfect picture books on my blog. Check it out.

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

Every day, I take a Fage raspberry yogurt to work with me. (I have a non-kidlit-related job.)  So the fridge always has a week’s supply. And you might find a Dove dark-chocolate candy bar cooling in there too. That candy is better cold.

Please also check out some of her other picture books we’ve enjoyed:

 Sophie’s Squash

The Quickest Kid In Clarksville

  Be Kind – Released February 6th (and we can’t wait)

For more information on Pat Zietlow Miller, check out her website or follow her on Instagram & Twitter.

Kid Review: Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race

Hannah, our guest blogger,  brings us today’s #middlegrademonday recommendation. Below is her review of Chris Grabenstein‘s Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race:

The book Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race by Chris Grabenstein is the 3rd book in the Mr. Lemoncello series. It was a good book, but some parts of it might be hard to understand if you haven’t read the other 2 books. I was able to make many predictions that were close to accurate, but there was a big twist in the end. When I met the author, I realized that he was a lot like his character, Mr. Lemoncello.

If you like puzzles, games, and reading, this is a book you should read.

 

Hannah is currently a 5th grader, but was in my class as a third grader. When she was in my class she loved getting my recommendations of books to read. She only read one book at a time and put others on her “shelfie” (phrase we call our mental shelf of books we want to read).  Hannah loved our #bookmadness16 tournament, reading all the nominated books (caught in the act on the tweet below). She often used our class twitter account to report out the winners of each round or to tweet to the nominated authors! 

 

   

I am so happy Hannah and I still keep in touch and talk about books. And I appreciate her taking the time to give us a kid review of a book (series) we have enjoyed!

 

Hannah is a 5th grade student who loves to read, dance, ski, and hike. She is a great big sister and loves sleep away camp.

 

 

Spotlight On: Debbie Ridpath Ohi

If you’ve never heard of or interacted with Debbie Ridpath Ohi, you need to immediately! We met her a few years back at Nerdcamp Michigan, when she had just come out with her debut picture book, Where Are My Books?   

During our chat we asked her if she’d Skype with our students in the coming year and she was thrilled to do so. Boy, are we glad we asked her. Our students had the best time “meeting” her. She had boundless energy and was also able to do a demonstration of how she created her found object art. During the Skype she turned a crumbled up piece of paper into a beautiful ballerina wearing a tutu.  One of the questions I asked her toward the end of our session was “what advice would you give to these students?” Her answer was incredible and the message she spoke about is still mentioned to this day, over two years later! She told my kids she had wished she knew earlier, that you don’t always need to be perfect the first time! Here’s a tweet a student sent her following the Skype session:

Besides being a wonderful person, I want to talk about her illustrations. We were so excited to read her new solo book Sam and Eva that came out a few weeks ago. The illustrations tell a lot of the story, but the book itself has many important themes. If you have not read this book, it’s a great one to add to #classroombookaday to discuss friendship, flexible thinking, or how art can tell many stories!

We are so happy she continues to come out with new books so often. Whether she is doing both writing and drawing or just illustrating, you will love her work! Debbie was kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her. Enjoy!

3 questions about the book

What can fans of your work expect from Sam and Eva?

A fun creative clash between two young artists, inspired by cartoon wars that a friend and I had back in our university days. Sam is drawing when Eva arrives, wanting to collaborate. The creative clash that ensues when their drawings start to come to life is fun and chaotic…but then both children realize things are getting out of hand and decide to work together. Sam & Eva is about art, creative collaboration and friendship.

What does your workplace look like?

As you can tell, I do not have one of those spacious, sunlit artist studios that overlooks a verdant meadow blooming with wildflowers. My office is in the basement, and I have covered up the windows with colourful scarves because (1) I never look out the windows anyway when I’m working, and (2) one window “looks out” under our deck and the other is blocked by bushes.

My husband Jeff and I call my office my “cave.” And I do so love my Office Cave.

What was your process for writing and illustrating Sam and Eva?  Was it the same as when you created Where Are My Books?

For Sam and Eva, I came up with a picture book dummy (a rough mock-up of the picture book) ahead of time and sent that to my editor, Justin Chanda at Simon & Schuster Children’s. He accepted it the next morning! I had to put off working on Sam & Eva for a while since I was working on other book projects first, so I had to reread it several times when it WAS time to work on the book to remind myself of the story.

Then I worked on the text with Justin, improving the story flow, page turns and language. Although I started working on character sketches earlier, I didn’t start working on the layout sketches for the interior spreads until the text was finalized. During the art phase, I worked mainly with my art director at Simon & Schuster, Laurent Linn. Laurent helped me figure out how to improve the visual aspect. I’ve worked with Justin and Laurent on my other picture books with S&S, and I learn so much from them with each project!

In contrast, Where Are My Books? took a lot longer to finalize the story and art. The main reason? It was my first solo picture book! I felt like such a newbie and had so many questions. Hm…in many ways, I still feel like a newbie and do keep asking a lot of questions! I figure that’s a good thing, however — it means that I’m still learning.

3 questions about you

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

A songwriter/musician. I’ve always loved making music with other people, and have written and co-written songs for my music group as a fun hobby, plus have done a few session musician gigs. A couple of the songs I wrote made it to national radio! In a parallel universe, I think I’d try to make a living writing music and playing music. It’s a whole other type of creative collaboration.

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

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. It’s the first book that made me aware of how voice can enhance my reading experience.

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

Ha! Fun question. Hm, let me think. Ok, how about this: some radish tops, leaves attached. Most people discard this part of the radish but I like saving them for potential found object art. Also: some shrivelled up basil leaves – I had been planning to use them for found object art but, um….forgot!

Thank you Debbie for chatting with us!

To learn more about Debbie please visit her website. Or follow her on Instragram and Twitter.

A Holiday Tradition: #holidaybookaday and #kidnesscalendar

If you’ve been following our blog since the very beginning you may remember that I posted around this time last year about starting a holiday tradition with my boys called #holidaybookaday and the #kindness calendar.

The premise is instead of opening a small gift every day in December to count down the holidays we open a holiday book (it could be about any of the December holidays including Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve) and we also open a small piece of paper with an activity that promotes kindness. For example some of the kindness activities we did last year were, ‘candy cane bombing’ a parking lot, bringing teachers coffee, holding open the door for others, drawing a picture for someone, making a list of polite words to use, etc. We had such a wonderful time reading holiday books and being kind to others that I can’t wait to continue these traditions this year. With so many great new books to add to our list I know this month is going to be just as special as last years!

Here is a list of some of the books we will be reading:

CHRISTMAS

The 12 Days of Christmas by Greg Pizzoli

Pig the Elf by Aaron Blabey

Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina illustrated by Chandra Cox

 

Fly Guy’s Ninja Christmas by Tedd Arnold

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht illustrated by Jarvis

Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas by Laura Murray illustrated by Mike Lowery

Olive the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh and J. Otto Siebold

A Piñata in a Pine Tree by Pat Mora illustrated by Magaly Morales

HANUKKAH

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket illustrated by Lisa Brown

Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah by Sylvia Rouss illustrated by Katherine Kahn

How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

Bright Baby Touch and Feel Hanukkah by Roger Priddy

KWANZAA

Seven Spools of Thread by Angela Shelf Medearis illustrated by Daniel Minter

K is for Kwanzaa by Juwanda G. Ford and Ken Wilson-Max

Here are a few others that I still need to wrap…

 

Stayed tuned for more wonderful holiday books in the month of December including some great ones to celebrate New Year’s Eve and the coming of a new year!

 

Voice in the Park

Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne is one of my favorite books to teach with!  Every year, my students are mesmerized by the illustrations and love to see how the different points of view are woven together.

I use this book teach point of view.  This year I used it to introduce a short writing unit that we are going to do between Thanksgiving and winter break which focuses on looking at a person from different points of view.  I divided the students into four equal groups and spread the groups out in the room and the hallway.  The book is told from four points of view, or voices, so each group was assigned to a different voice, and they were given a file folder with a copy of each illustration from their voice.

The students had time to look at all of their pictures and share what they saw.  After enough time for discussion, they were instructed to put the pictures in what they thought was a logical order, coming up with a story about what was happening as they worked.  When the groups were finished writing down their stories, I put the pictures up on the board in their order and they took turns telling their stories to their peers.  One of my favorite parts of this activity is when at this point, they realize that “their” characters are in someone else’s story, too.  After each group had gone, I gathered the students on the rug and read aloud the text.

I love this lesson for so many reasons.  The conversations at all stages are organic and each year I do this activity, there has never been a student disengaged on the sidelines.  The book provides an authentic discussion on how the point of view of the story can make such a difference, even with a plot as simple as going to the park.

If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at this book, I highly recommend you do.  I do this lesson each year with third graders and love teaching it every time!

All the Answers: Guest Blogger

Today we have 11 year old guest blogger, Leila Deal. Leila is one of my nieces and an avid reader. I have 5 nieces and 3 nephews and ever since they were babies I bought them each a book for every birthday and Christmas gift. Since the day each of them were born I’ve stressed to each of my three siblings the importance of reading to a child from the very beginning. Out of the 8 of them my sisters two daughters are the only ones who are book lovers. They come to my house and scour our library for a new book or even to reread an old favorite, they ask only for books from me whenever it’s time to get them a gift…these two girls love reading! Unfortunately my other nieces and nephews, no matter how hard I’ve tried, have never been excited about reading. Thankfully my sister has always been a reader and loves to share her book love with her daughters. When I asked Leila to write up a review for a book she recently loved reading she sent me a text with a picture as we were face-timing! That’s how often she reads and can chat about a book because she always has another one she can’t wait to chat about! As a sixth grader herself, currently experiencing middle school, she connected to this book. Here is her review of All The Answers by Kate Messner

I love this story because it is magical. It is about a girl named Ava and Sophie and find a magical pencil that tells her the answers she o every question she asks… but the pencil has a rule that you can’t ask a free will question. She learns that a magic pencil can help you through the ups and downs of middle school.

World Kindness- #middleschoolpicturebook

Last year I wrote a post about how I use Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco in my classroom for a special Thanksgiving activity. Please take the time to read that post here. 

Today is also World Kindness Day and although I am currently staying home with my two boys for the year and don’t have a class to do this activity with, I decided to become my own student and show kindness to an old teacher. Last night I reread the book and then wrote a thank you letter to an old teacher in my life. I picked a woman who was my cooperating teacher for my student teaching in 2001! I have been in contact with her off and on through the years and decided I wanted her to be the recipient of a letter from me. I hope I hear back from her. Please keep your fingers crossed with me.

Another reason I want bring this book up is because I want to reiterate how important picture books can be for all ages. Right now there is a movement called #classroombookaday, which has many elementary, middle and even high school classes taking the time each day to read a picture book. I feel this book is the perfect #picturebooksformiddleschool! Published in 2012, it is a heart warming story about a bright girl, who has difficulty reading, finds comfort in drawing, and in 5th grade finally meets a teacher who helps her become a reader. Every time I read it I get tears in my eyes when she reencounters her teacher at the end. This is a great time to read it aloud in your classroom and have the students give thanks to the many teachers who have helped shaped who they are.

Please leave a comment on how you’ve used this book or any other “giving thanks” favorites!

 

Kim Bogren Owen – Book Reviews

Orchids

What immediately struck us about Orchids is the beautiful, clear, crisp picture on the cover. We love how the entire book is dedicated to this one gorgeous flower. We see this book being a great resource for us as an introduction to the beautiful flower or if one of our kids wants to learn more in-depth information about orchids. The book is filled with wonderful facts about orchids, which are accompanied by bright photographs that support the text. What we appreciated about the book is that it can be read and enjoyed by the smallest reader who wants to learn about shapes, colors and sizes. Kim does an amazing job of making connections for the reader from text to self and to the world. From the very first page she describes how orchids come in all shapes and sizes, just like people, and goes on to make a connection to orchids being symmetrical, just like our faces! She weaves interesting facts into the connections that children make to things they eat too. For example, how the vanilla orchid is pollinated by people and used in some of the most delicious foods we eat (oatmeal, cookies and ice cream). It is also wonderful for an older reader, possibly a budding botanist, with text that is also more complex and shows different ways an orchid affects our lives. At the end of the book, Kim gives suggestions to extend learning, the ideas are geared more toward younger readers, involving different multi-sensory activities, but can be adapted for all ages. Orchids can be a wonderful book to start a conversation about flowers, nature, pollination, vocabulary, and the life cycle, or it can be a great reference to use to explore more about these flowers which make so many people happy! We only hope she has more of these beautiful nonfiction books in the works; we think this would make a wonderful series!

 

Art Part – A Child’s Introduction to Elements of Art

Kim mixes art concepts and vocabulary with work of art by children. Art Part – A Child’s Introduction to Elements of Art is a useful guide for a young artist to learn that creating art can take on many shapes and forms. We like the wide range of art concept words ranging from concrete ideas to more abstract. After each page she provides a blank page for the reader to practice these concepts. We know sometimes it is hard to write in a book (even if it’s allowed), so when purchasing the book Kim allows you access to practice pages so you don’t have to write in the book or if you are working with more than one reader, you have multiple pages so there is no arguing (we love how she thought of that). We can see this book helping parents show their kids more ways to create art, but we also see it being useful in an art classroom. At the end of the book Kim writes ten ideas to further explore art and all the concepts learned in the book; a helpful guide for artists. As teachers and parents we would love to add an idea. The page where Kim discusses texture we would ask our children to go on a texture scavenger hunt and find the types of textures she describes: prickly, smooth, hard and soft and then glue in the artifacts they found so there is a tactile element to the texture page, similar to the touch-and-feel board books our babies love.

Kim also runs wordsreflected.com  a blog that gives parents and educators ideas on how to promote language and literacy with young children.  You can connect with Kim on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Also, if you’d like to purchase either of these books. Please click this link. 

 

Keith Haring – The Boy Who Kept Drawing

 

I grew up just outside New York City, starting when I was young, my family went into Manhattan quite a bit for dinner, theater, etc. Each time we drove down the FDR (a highway on the East side) we would pass this giant orange wall with fun people drawn on it and above the people I was always able to read the words, “Crack is Wack”.  Little did I know what crack was at that age or that it was the work of artist Keith Haring. But the image made a lasting impression on me and my family. I learned that Keith was the artist of that wall many years later when my sister bought a print of his and had it hung on her bedroom wall. Then as I got older I enjoyed seeing his work pop up in different places.

I was so excited when I heard there was a picture book written about him. The same day I discovered it on one of Donalyn Miller’s Books for a Better World slides,  I ran to get myself a copy. To my surprise the book was written by Kay A. Haring, Keith’s sister. The book explores his journey as an artist and how he felt that anybody should be able to enjoy his art. I loved learning that his exhibitions always brought a diverse group of people, ranging from celebrities, collectors, and families.  I think his passion for art and sharing it with the world will really resonate with kids. 

Kay was kind enough to provide us with more pictures of her and Keith as well as answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her.

Kay and Keith

The Haring Family


3 Questions about Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing

What was your process for writing Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing?

I always wanted to tell my brother’s story emphasizing his generous nature and over the last decade had drafted at least three different storylines. About five years ago I joined a writer’s group and needed something to present, so I resurrected those drafts and combined them into one.  I knew then that I had to pursue this project, so I started to explore the process to publish, and joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I found an agent the first time I made queries and within three months we met with four publishers and had two offers. After accepting an offer, it took three years to bring to print. Much of this time was spent on carefully selecting and integrating Keith’s artwork with Robert Neubecker’s illustrations.

The actual content of the story was easy to write. I wanted children to experience Keith’s generosity and his easy going, fun-loving personality. While there were dozens of scenarios I could choose from, there were a few situations that stood out as hallmarks of Keith’s dedication and commitment to community.  The difficult part of a story like this is to edit it down to a reasonable length. Many scenes had to be cut or combined in order to shape the final message.

Because this book is so personal, were you able to pick the illustrator?

No. That’s not the way it works when you use one of the big publishers. I was fortunate, however, that the editor believed it best that we collaborate and it turned out the illustrator lives in our vacation town, so we were able to meet in person a number of times. Plus, he lived and worked in NYC in the 80’s. Robert Neubecker’s understanding of and contributions from the art/street scene was invaluable.  

What do you think Keith would say if he read this book?

Do I really look like that? (He always had a sense of humor!)

 

3 Questions about You

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

A Park Ranger in the National Park system. I love nature and science, because they hold inevitable truths and incredible beauty.  How awesome would it be to walk beneath the trees everyday and expand the minds of children (and adults) by exposing them to new elements in nature?  One of my favorite volunteer jobs was to introduce people to sea urchins and hermit crabs at the Waikiki Aquarium.  I learned invaluable lessons about people and how they interact with their environment and hopefully encouraged a few kids to pursue biology and conservation.

 

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

While living in Hawai’i, I read the novel “Moloka’i” by Alan Brennert, and was fortunate to visit Kalaupapa and walk the trail leading down – and back out – of the former leprosy community.  The novel portrays a personal glimpse into the life of someone exiled because of a disease and how the human spirit triumphs no matter the circumstance.

In the children’s picture book genre, an unforgettable one is “You Made Me a Mother” by Laurenne Sala, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser.  Not since I read “Love You Forever” to my kids, thirty years ago, has a story made me tear up, every time.  And now that I know more about the serendipity that is involved in combining words with illustrations, I recognize this as a true masterpiece.

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

Half & half – for my morning coffee. 🙂

Kay talking about Keith and the book with kids

Thank you so much for allowing us to interview you! To learn more about Kay visit her website.  Also, proceeds from the book go to Berks County Community Foundation, an organization in her family hometown that benefits the youth. To find out more visit them at bccf.org

This or That…

The Storymamas have enjoyed sharing so many books with our readers and we wanted to start a new once-a-month tradition of sharing with you connections we make between books. As readers we know you do this too before, during and after reading a book; you think of another book you’ve read that reminds you of that book or an experience you’ve had. When you’re helping a child pick out the next book they will devour, maybe you will find this helpful to have some direction and ideas. So take a look at our latest book connections:

Bee & Bird by Craig Frazier and Zoom by Istvan Banyai are wordless picture books that take you on a journey through close up illustrations. As you turn the pages the illustrations pan out to be something new to discover. We’ve had a great time playing the guessing game with the bright and cheery illustrations in both books. These two are also wonderful to ask inferring questions using the clues in the picture.

The Bad Guys series by Aaron Blabey is about Mr. Wolf who recruits other ‘bad guys’ like a Mr. Shark, Mr. Snake and Mr. Piranha to finally change and be good guys and help others. In the first book the plan is to make their very first ‘good guy’ impression by breaking out two hundred dogs from the Maximum Security Dog Pound. Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, illustrations by Dan Santat is a hilarious picture book about some more ‘bad guys’, carnivores who just want to be seen in the world as loving and friendly animals. They try and change their ways of tearing through other animals as meals and become vegetarians. Both books have characters that try and battle between the good ol’ good vs. evil debate. Will these seemingly terrifying animals change and be seen as the heroes they so desperately want to be? A great connection between picture book and chapter book, kids will love these hilarious stories!

A triple connection between three books, Todd’s TV by James Proimos, Tek: The Modern Cave Boy by Patrick McDonnell and Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino, are all about technology. A TV, a cave boy and a robot who are always plugged in remind us that sometimes we need to turn off the technology and experience the world. These three funny books give us some direction when our own children are too plugged in and need a break (and even us as adults too).

Breakfast food…who doesn’t love silly stories about breakfast food?! Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk, illustrated by Brendan Kearney and Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio are hilarious stories about some very boastful breakfast foods: bacon, Sir French Toast and Lady Pancake. Will these breakfast foods realize that they aren’t all that and friendship and kindness are more important than being the best?

Meet The Bobs and Tweets series by Pepper Springfield, illustrated by Kristy Caldwell and Gaston by Kelly DiPuccio, illustrated by Christian Robinson both have characters who are different from their families. Both books explore the relationships the characters have with the families they’ve been born into but each of the characters, even in their differences, are able to find a connection to a character in the family that is completely opposite then them, showing how even if you feel so very different from others you can always find your connection and your place somewhere in the world.

What connections can you make to books you’ve read recently? Feel free to comment below or post to our Twitter or Instagram to add to our list!