Garbage Island Interview & Giveaway!

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

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

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

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

3 Questions about Garbage Island

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

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

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

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

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

What was your inspiration for writing Garbage Island?

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

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

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

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

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

3 Questions about You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***GIVEAWAY INFO****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Questions about The Dollar Kids

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

Thought-provoking, entertaining, uplifting

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

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

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

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

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

3 Questions about You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

100 Friends- Warren & Dragon Review/Author Interview

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

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

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

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

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

3 Questions about Warren & Dragon

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Questions about You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Yasmin…and Author Interview

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

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

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

3 Questions about Meet Yasmin

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

Relevant. Fun. Timely.

What literary character would Yasmin be friends with and why?

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

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

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

3 Questions about You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Credit given to: Rudine Sims Bishop for the term

Kid Review: Lou Lou & Pea and The Bicentennial Bonanza

Thank you Jill Diamond for sending Marley, our kid reviewer,  the free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of your latest friendship adventure- Lou Lou & Pea and the Bicentennial Bonanza.

Marley is a voracious 5th grade reader and couldn’t wait to get her hands on this book! Here is her summary and review!

Lulu and Pea is a story about two friends who have different hobbies but cherish their friendship. In the story, Lulu and Pea’s neighborhood is hosting the party for the town’s 200th birthday and everyone is preparing. Then the mayor leaves the town and the party is in the hands of the vice mayor. Soon, the town’s preparation and excitement goes down the drain when the party is moved to another neighborhood and, coincidently enough, it is the vice mayor’s neighborhood. Can Lulu and Pea save their town’s preparations and party, or will their bonanza turn into a disappointment?

 I would recommend this book for young readers who want a challenge and older readers who just want a great story. I rate this book with 5 stars because of the way it draws you in and you don’t want to stop reading.

All in all, this was a wonderful book and I give a big thanks to Storymamas for letting me review it.

This book was released a few weeks ago, so feel free to run to a bookstore and buy a copy today!

Marley is finishing up the school year and will soon be off to middle school in the fall. She loves reading, and spends hours before bed getting lost in books! She enjoys soccer, theater, being with friends, is a wonderful niece to Storymama Kim, and loves to read to her cousins any chance she gets! 

 

To learn more about Jill Diamond checkout her website or follow her on twitter.

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.

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!

One Smart Cookie…

Smart Cookie by one of our favorite middle grade authors, Elly Swartz, is yet another fantastic story of emotion, love, friendship and family. We don’t know how Elly does it but once again, just like in her book Finding Perfect, she made us fall in love. We fell in love with the story, the characters, her words, just everything. Elly has this amazing way of making sure that as the reader you experience and step into the lives of her characters. You get so engrossed and involved in their lives you feel you know them personally and become invested in their successes, hardships and their stories. Smart Cookie is all about Frankie finding her perfect family. Since her moms passing it’s just been her dad, her gram and her living at a B & B. She misses her mom tremendously and she wants to feel like a family again but doesn’t think that’s possible without finding a new mom. Throughout the story she realizes what a family really means.

We had another opportunity to interview Elly Swartz about Smart Cookie, as well as ask her some questions about herself.

3 ?s about Smart Cookie

What three words would you use to describe your book?

Family. Heart. Spunk. (And, if I can sneak in a fourth, Secrets.)

We love that you have multiple stories weaved together with multiple layers to the main character. Where did you come up with your ideas for Smart Cookie?  

Frankie’s story is all about family. For me, family is at the heart of everything I do and everything I am. I grew up with a very close family. But when I was thirty, my mom died. She was 55. Her loss opened a great big hole in my heart. And after 22 years, I’ve realized some holes aren’t meant to be filled. Not in the same way. And that is ultimately what Frankie learns. Family isn’t about having all the same pieces in place, it’s about having people in your life who love you unconditionally. And that circle is so much bigger than those with whom you shared a bedroom, a childhood, a name.

Frankie’s friend Elliot’s ghost hunting was sparked by my youngest son and one of his childhood friends. When they were eleven (now 22), they went ghost hunting, and, as the story goes, they found a ghost!

Frankie’s snow globe collection was inspired by my oldest son. He collected snow globes when he was little. When I was writing this story, I found the box marked ‘snow globes’ and shared them with Frankie. She loved them!

And Frankie’s pets, Lucy and Winston, came to the page right from my home. Lucy, my beagle, is all spunk and love. Just like Frankie. And, Winston, was inspired by my youngest son’s African Pygmy Hedgehog named Hippie.

So while it wasn’t the plan going in, seems there’s a lot of my life tucked into these pages.

Do you have any “Frankies” in your life?  Is she based off of anyone you know?

Frankie is a blend of many people in my life. I think she’s equal parts spunk and heart. I love her courage, wit, strength, and strong sense of caring for those she loves the most. Gratefully, there are many strong girls and women in my life who share these qualities.

3 ?s about You

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

I have a few. I love Happy Dreamer by Peter Reynolds, I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. And, I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt and Cyd Moore. New to this list are Love by Matt de la Pena and Loren Long and Be Kind Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill (out 2/6). All of these books are filled with heart. Not sure there could be a better gift to give.

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

My three guests would be my mom, Judy Blume, and Michelle Obama. Three incredible, strong women.

My mom has been gone for twenty-two years. There is not a day that passes that I don’t wish to have one moment with her. To tell her I love her. To say thank you. To listen.  

Judy Blume, well, she’s one of my writer heroes. I want to know how it felt when Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? came out. What she’s reading. The advice she’d give. And, what she learned along the way.

Michelle Obama, she truly embraces the strength and intelligence, kindness and empathy, and sense of family that I so admire. I’d love to hear what’s important to her now, what matters most, and what is in her TBR pile. Then we could go to the gym together and work-out.

Honestly, three amazing women who I would love to learn from and be inspired by over a glass of wine and dinner. 

What has been your most memorable “author” moment since Finding Perfect has been released?

There have been many wonderful author moments, but the one that resonates most, was a letter from a student who I’d connected with. This letter began, “I just wanted you to know that you changed my life.” Honestly, that moment melted my heart and has stayed with me. To know the words I wrote, the story I told, made a difference is truly everything.  

And a few extras…

Smart Cookie Activity and Curriculum Guide

http://ellyswartz.com/smart-cookie-book

Links to order Smart Cookie:

http://amzn.to/2v0pWU9

http://bit.ly/2uRCWL1

http://bit.ly/2vT5YXJ

Once again, thank you so much Elly for answering our questions and sharing such powerful stories with the world! To learn more about Elly, check out her website or follow her Instagram and  twitter.

Keep an eye out for her third book, Give and Take in 2019!

Elly Swartz loves writing for kids, Twizzlers, and anything with her family. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG 2016) is about twelve-year-old Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. In her second book, SMART COOKIE (Scholastic, 2018), you meet the spunky and big-hearted Frankie. Frankie’s all about family with a dash of mischief and mystery! And then in 2019, say hello to Maggie in GIVE AND TAKE (FSG). Elly lives in Massachusetts with her family and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly, you can find her at ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or on Instagram @ellyswartzbooks.