Meet Yasmin…and Author Interview

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

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

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

3 Questions about Meet Yasmin

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

Relevant. Fun. Timely.

What literary character would Yasmin be friends with and why?

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

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

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

3 Questions about You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Credit given to: Rudine Sims Bishop for the term

Shark Week Recap


This past week we put together some of our favorite shark books.  We hope you enjoyed them! Here is a recap of the books, along with links to many of the authors and illustrators!


Shark Nate-O by Tara Luebbe and @beckycattie illustrated by Daniel Duncan is the perfect book to kickoff #sharkweek! Nate loves everything about sharks and is constantly talking about, acting as and reading about sharks! There’s a problem though, Nate can’t swim and as soon as his big brother points this out Nate is determined to learn. A perfect story of perseverance and dedication!

The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding The World’s Coral Reefs is a non-fiction picture book written by Kate Messner. This enlightening, encouraging and a beautiful book teaches us about a man named Ken Nedimyer and his love for the ocean and how he began to rebuild and restore the worlds coral reefs. Matthew Forsythe’s illustrations add a warm and tender feel to this narrative text. Easy to understand for even our younger readers, so we can all read it, learn something & be inspired by his curiosity & proactive nature.

Misunderstood Shark is Ame Dyckman’s newest clever and witty book. Jellyfish is broadcasting live underwater for his television show when Shark enters the scene. It’s looks as if Shark is about to eat a fish, but he goes on to explain that he hadn’t planned on eating him after all. Littered with facts, the story continues with misunderstanding after misunderstanding. This book will sure make you giggle and you’ll love the illustrations by Scott Magoon!

Have you ever wondered who would win between a shark and a train? Well Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld wrote Shark vs. Train to curb your curiosity! Whether it’s roasting marshmallows, shooting baskets or sword fighting these two will keep you smiling!

 

.Our 🦈 week books continue with Nugget and Fang..can a shark and a minnow really be friends?! This unlikey friendship story is created by the perfect author/illustrator team! Tammi Sauer and Michael Slack ! The fun text & hilarious illustrations will have you talking and smiling the whole way through! (With some scattered facts & math thrown in)!

We loved reading Jess Keating’s The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became The Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist! This is fabulous nonfiction picture book, highlighting Eugenie Clark’s amazing & curious life! Jess has done a wonderful job of writing about her life. She adds a timeline and other fun ocean/shark facts at the end of the book. Along with an author’s note, which taught me even more!

 

Here are even more titles we wanted to share!

Who Would Win? series – Jerry Pallotta

There Was An Old Mermaid Who Swallowed the Shark – Lucille Colandro

Clark The Shark – Bruce Hale

Shark Detective – Jessica Olien

If Sharks Disappear – Lily Williams 

Smart About Sharks –  Owen Davey

Swimming with Sharks – The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark  – Heather Lang 

Shark Swimathon – Stuart J Murphy 

Discovering Sharks – Donna Parham 

Dear Past & Future Nerdy Friends…

Dear Nerdy Friends,

A letter in no particular order of my thoughts and feelings on Nerdcamp as I reflect on the two amazing days!

I want to say a huge thank you to Colby & his team for organizing such an amazing event! Also, a gigantic shout out goes to many of the “behind the scenes” people as there wasn’t ever an empty water cooler, a roll of toilet paper missing or an AV issue that I encountered! So much thought and hard work went in to planning this amazing event and I took notice! So thanks!

I have been home almost 3 full days and my heart & and brain are still full with joy. Being at camp was such a great experience. I got to meet and learn more about so many people that I have only met through technology. Meeting many of the authors that have been cheerleaders for Storymamas was so rewarding. And I was introduced to many new authors that I am eager to read their books! 

I also got to spend 2 days learning, laughing and making my already long TBR pile even longer, alongside one of my fellow Storymamas, Courtney. Although it takes a 3 person team to run Storymamas, we have not all seen each other in person in quite a while. Most of our “meetings” are held through video conferencing and texting. So allowing me two days with a friend I don’t often see was amazing!

It was such a treat to attend sessions that helped me think about books. Many spoke about the power of books, the kinds of books and access to books we give kids. I loved listening to Chad Everett, Sara K. Ahmed, Donalyn Miller and Pernille Ripp give Nerd Talks. These talks made me stop and think. I also attended a hilarious panel on the importance of series books, that allowed me to hear more titles I can read and recommend but it allowed me to see the true personalities of people you’d never expect. (Looking at you Nathan Hale and James Ponti) I attended Raul the Third & Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s session and learned drawing activities to teach my students and another memorable session was hearing some readings of authors very early writing work! (Abby Cooper’s Diary and a fantastic 2nd grade story from Aaron Zenz). And a fun and important session was on the stigma and thought around “being nerdy” and the word nerd. And without saying who, I did learn that one of the nerds from the session was a cart-wheel- aholic! (Jarrett Lerner, Shelley Johannes & Elissa Brent Weissman).

Something else that I found refreshing was that Western High School had very limited cell service, so my cell battery drained very quickly. I soon switched it to airplane mode. Afraid that my phone would die and I wouldn’t be able to get in touch with someone, I decided to not post anything in the moment on social media. That was such a refreshing idea that upon reflection made me stay present for all there was to take in!

Finally, at the last minute I was given an opportunity to be an author assistant for talented author/illustrator, Sarah Jacoby, at Nerdcamp Jr. I had never attended this part and I am so glad I did. The sparkle and eyes of the kids who saw they were learning from authors & illustrators were so precious. One kid said to me at the beginning “the best part was I got to go home with a book last year” when I told him it would happen again, his eyes grew larger! Then after we did an art activity, a student stood up and said “don’t forget to sign your work! All artists should” a message they received right before from Arrchee Chung’s session! Nerdcamp Jr was the icing on the cake and a spectacular way to end an amazing 2 days.

So Nerdy friends, please keep in touch and if you’ve never been, please seek out one of the Nerdcamps happening near you and I know I’ll be in Parma next year! (And maybe another camp if I can swing it!)

Colby and crew, again, you’ve done an amazing thing here!


Warmly,

Storymama Kim

Super Manny Cleans Up! & Interview with Kelly DiPucchio

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

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

Super Manny Cleans Up! is out today!

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

3 Questions about Super Manny Cleans Up!

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

Inspiring, sweet & SUPER!

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

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

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

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

3 Questions about You

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

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

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

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

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

Chia seeds.

 

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

Meeting Kelly last summer at Book Beat, Michigan

 

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.

What Do You Do With a Chance? An Interview With Author Kobi Yamada

You know you’ve found an amazing picture book when it makes you truly think and reflect on the world around you.  Author Kobi Yamada’s first book in the series, What Do You Do With an Idea? spoke to the reader metaphorically, encouraging those ideas we might not think good enough to be set free into the world of possible.  We were further impressed with the second title, What Do You Do With a Problem. It proved to be an inspirational read aloud, providing a bright outlook on how to approach problems, and the meaningful experiences that might unfold.  So when we were contacted by Compendium to review the third and final book, What Do You Do With a Chance, we couldn’t wait to read it.

The book follows the same character, who this time is presented with a chance.  We’ve all been there, internally debating if we should take a chance we are presented with, the dialogue going through our heads of the endless possibilities and outcomes that lie within this one decision.  The reader is able to relate to the character’s thoughts of all eyes looking at him and the seeming pressure from those around us when we step outside of our comfort zone.  And sometimes those pressures become too much, and opportunities get pushed aside.  It’s only when we courageously dig down deep that the chance of something wonderful can truly exist.  We can all relate to this theory of thought, and What Do You Do With a Chance? will inspire those young and old to always seize the opportunities given to us…they might just change our lives.

We had the chance to interview Kobi Yamada about himself and his books.

Three Questions About What Do You Do With a Chance?

What was your inspiration for your What Do You Do… series?

It all started with an idea.  I think in many ways, I didn’t write What Do You Do With An Idea? as much as the story chose me.  I’ve always felt deeply honored that the inspiration for the book woke me up one morning and wanted me to share it with the world.

Tell us about your collaboration with Mae Besom.  The pictures fit so perfectly with your words.  Did you have a lot of input on the illustrations?  

When I was writing the book, in my mind, I always pictured Mae illustrating it.  I had descriptions and notes for each page, but then when I reached out to her agent, I discovered that Mae lived in China and didn’t speak English.  I was concerned because in order for the book to work, the illustrator needed to understand its deeper meaning.  What I discovered through the interpreter was that Mae not only understood what I was trying to do, but was moved and inspired by it.  She embraced the concept of bringing the book from black and white to color as the idea influences its surroundings and added so many wonderful visual elements.  It was ridiculously fun to collaborate in such a magical way.

Why did you decide to stop the series at three books?  I know there is a lot of love and admiration for your series, so we’d like to know your thoughts behind just making the three.  (After reading it to my students, they suggested What Do You Do With a Question…even they want more!)

I didn’t set out to write a series.  It just happened with the concept for the second book.  And when I wrote that second book, I purposefully had the bones of the book match the structure of the first one.  Naturally, this carried over to book number three. I felt it was time for me to create a picture book in a brand new way and so my next book is something completely different and I am really excited by the challenge of it.

3 Questions About Kobi Yamada

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

Actually, I don’t really think of myself as a writer.  I am grateful and honored to author books but my day job is running Compendium and I couldn’t be happier or feel more fortunate.  I am surrounded by talented, caring, big-hearted people trying to make a positive difference in the world.  Who could ask for more?

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

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  I was a young person when I first read it, and to an optimist like me, when I read his words such as, “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”  Well, they have a way of sticking with you.  

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

Kombucha.  Healthy, bubbly, tasty, with a bit of kick…that’s good for your gut.  I think that says a lot about why I like it.  

 

A big thank you to Kobi Yamada for answering our questions and sharing his thoughts.  Be sure to check out Compedium for a wide variety of inspiration books and gifts, including an adorable Idea plush!

*Can’t wait to read What Do You Do With a Chance? Enter on Instagram or twitter @storymamas to win a copy!

 

 

 

 

All opinions and reviews are our own.

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.

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!

 

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

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.