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 

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

 

Life According to Og the Frog

Thank you to Penguin Young Readers for the advance copy of Life According to Og the Frog.  All opinions are our own.

Meet Og the Frog.  Due circumstances out of his control, he finds himself in Mrs. Brisbane’s room as a class pet.  But much to his surprise, there is already a pet that resides in room 26; the infamous hamster, Humphrey.  Humphrey squeak squeaks, Og boing boings, yet the two find a way to communicate with each other and become friends.  Your students will love getting to know Humphrey’s friend in this new chapter book by Betty G. Birney.  We know that Og loves being able to call Humphrey his friend, so it got us thinking about why it would be great to have a frog as a friend!  Are there any reasons you would add to the list?

1. You can finally win the long jump contest.  We’ve all dreamed about being a superstar in some fashion or another, so now’s your chance to be a champion long jumper.  With a little help and training from Og, you’re sure to win first place.

2.  You can finally get immunity to pesky warts.  Afraid of looking like a witch?  Scared to get a big wart on your toe?  Hanging around a frog all the time will build up your immunity and you’ll be wart free from here on out!

3.  You can learn all about the birds and the bees.  Or, eh, the tadpoles and the frogs.  It’s a science lesson every day when your best friend is a frog.

4.  You can save on your exterminator bill.  Og LOVES chirping crickets, and chances are, you don’t.  Are some of them finding their way into your basement, or keeping you up at night when your windows are open?  Having a frog around will help eliminate those noisy little critters and you’ll be feeding your friend at the same time!

5.  You might have just found your prince charming.  It’s not everyday that you find yourself friends with a frog.  And once the two of your have been friends for a while, some thoughts might creep into your mind.  What if this frog is really my prince charming?  Should I kiss him?  Do I even believe in this stuff?  If you really have to wonder if you believe in that magic, you might take a few steps back because you’ve just admitted to having a frog as a friend.  But we aren’t stopping you.  Go ahead and kiss the adorable fella!

6.  You finally have your “in” to meet Kermit.  Who doesn’t want to meet that adorable little guy?  And now with your frog best friend, you’ve got your connection.  Enough said!

Og the frog is ready to be your friend on July 3rd, when Life According to Og the Frog hits bookstore shelves.

Author Bio – Betty G. Birney has won many awards for writing for television, including an Emmy, three Humanitas Prizes, and a Writers Guild of America Award. In addition to the Humphrey series, she is the author of The Seven Wonders of Sassafrass Springs and The Princess and the Peabodys. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, where her parents grew up as neighbors on Humphrey Street.

Friends Stick Together

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

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

 

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

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.

Meet Pig and Chick: An Early Reader Chapter Book

Thank you P. Marin for sending us Pig and Chick: The Birthday Wish That Got Away to review and for answering our questions. All opinions are our own.

Pig and Chick: The Wish That Got Away written by P. Marin is an adorable story of friendship, kindness and generosity. It’s Pig’s birthday but he doesn’t really understand what birthday wishes are all about because all he’s ever wanted is a friendship with Chick and he already has that. So being the kind and generous Pig that he is, he decides to give his birthday wish to Chick. Have you ever had a birthday wish that got away? Well that’s how Chick feels when the candle melts into one big pile of wax and she isn’t able to wish for a donkey so they could play pin the tail on the donkey. But then Chick sees a donkey and gets excited that maybe her wish will come true. However, things go awry and once the wish is fulfilled she realizes that she already has everything she wants in her friendship with Pig.

Wonderful for ages four to eight this early reader chapter book will spark discussion about friendship and kindness. Don’t miss the other books in the series Pig and Chick: Stuck and Pig and Chick: Pigcasso.

3 ?s about Pig and Chick

What are three words you use to describe your book?

charming, funny, endearing

How did you decide to have Pig be the kind and patient character?

I first met Pig and Chick when I was doodling.  They showed up in my sketchbook.  They were sitting at a rundown bus stop.  I had no idea who they were or where they were headed; all I knew is I wanted to buy a ticket and get on that same bus.  So I tucked that sketch into a drawer and went about my daily business.  Sometimes as I washed dishes or went for a walk, a thought would cross my mind and I’d say to myself, “Oh, that’s something Pig would say.” Or “That’s something Chick would do.”  When that happened, I’d jot down notes on scraps of paper.  It was in that process of jotting down random thoughts that I discovered who they were.  Pig, the patient, more thoughtful one – the one I aspire to be like – and Chick, the impatient, child-like one who I already am.  

How did you come up with the story idea?

In Pigcasso, Pig is determined to be the next artist extraordinaire.  When I was growing up I loved to write and draw.  In fact, every week in fifth grade, my teacher wheeled in a television set. He’d turn it on and there would appear local artist Bruce McIntyre. Alongside Mr. McIntyre, we’d draw.

For me, it was the highlight of elementary school.  Toward the end of fifth grade, my teacher announced that Mr. McIntyre would be visiting our classroom – in person – and if we brought five dollars that day, we could buy a copy of his book. I began saving immediately. On the big day I arrived to school early with sharp pencils and no money. I was devastated. At the end of the presentation, Mr. McIntyre walked up to me. He handed me a copy of his book and said, “Your teacher thinks you’re going to need this.” Turns out I did.  But it took me nearly three decades, and a bunch of jobs that made it hard to get out of bed, before inspiration struck and I realized how important our dreams are.  Luckily, unlike Pig, I didn’t have to get run over by a donkey to create my first work of art.

3 ?s about You

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

There is this quote by Poet Galway Kinnell.  It says, “Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.”  It’s a terrible thing to forget how wonderful you are.  So if I weren’t a writer, I’d be a teacher.  The kind that shows people their loveliness.

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

Adult book:  Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Children’s book:  Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad

To me, they say the same thing.  Keep life slow and simple and don’t forget to appreciate the things that matter most.

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

Worms.  What they say about me is this:  I love our son, who is affectionately known as the Domestic Zookeeper, very much.  Because there are a lot of compelling reasons not to keep worms in your refrigerator.  But there is also one compelling reason why I do.  Love.  Love for our son and love for a boy’s dream.  I hope it’s that kind of love you’ll find in my books.  

To learn even more about P. Marin, please visit her website or follow her on Instagram

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 #kindnesscalendar

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!

Melanie Crowder talks Three Pennies & More…

I met Melanie at an event a few months ago at Second Star to The Right Books in Denver, Colorado. Melanie sat in a room with me and we book talked many Middle Grade book titles to other educators. She of course gave her own book talk about her book, Three Pennies. Although it was on my TBR pile, I hadn’t yet read it. But man, after her talk about how important this book was to her and the passion in her voice, I knew it had to be moved up. After the talks, Melanie turned and gave a copy to us. I went home and promptly started it….


They say books should be mirrors and windows for readers. This book was a window for me into the difficulties of being a child in the foster care system. In the author’s notes Melanie mentions that she advanced time lines for the sake of the story and is fully aware things take much longer than portrayed in the book. The short chapters, told from different perspectives made such a heavy book seem light and easy to read. I felt that the book read almost as if I was watching it as a movie. The raw emotions from the characters help you step into their shoes. You felt for Marin when she explains why she wants to be invisible in her foster care home. And the desperation when she wants to find her mother. Melanie has created a wonderful book that many would see as a mirror, and I hope that one day those children will find a loving home.  

Melanie was kind enough to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about her.

3 Questions about Three Pennies

Were you familiar with the I Ching prior to writing this story?

I wasn’t—at all!

Here’s the story. The last time I visited Montana for my niece’s birthday, my sister had this amazing idea to do a scavenger hunt on bikes for the kids that would lead them ultimately to this sweet little ice cream shop. Perfect. The kind of party a kid would remember forever, right?

Well, the kids were five, so some were ready for the BMX course, but others were still rocking the strider bike. It was a little bit of a logistical challenge, to say the least…

At some point, when faced with too many decisions piling on top of each other, my sister said:

Enough! Let’s ask the I Ching what we should do.

Me: The what?

Her: The I Ching. Duh.

Okay, so I needed an education. My sister explained that the I Ching is an ancient Chinese divination text, credited to Confucius, that has been used for centuries by people to guide them through life. She explained that you could ask questions about everyday kinds of things, or you can ask the BIG questions of life.

So my sister is telling me all about how the I Ching works and I have an honest-to-goodness physical reaction. Something between goosebumps and that feeling you get in the middle of a thunderstorm when there’s a little too much electricity in the air.

I just knew in that moment that someday I was going to write a book about a girl who used the I Ching to figure out her life’s problems.

How did the idea of the different perspectives come to you?

You know, it was that way from the very beginning. That’s just how the story came to me.

This is such an important topic, what was the journey to getting it published?

I am very fortunate—I have an excellent relationship with my middle grade editor. Three Pennies was our third book together. So when I got the idea, I polished up a few sample pages and sent them her way. I loved the story. She loved the story. The publisher loved the story. And that was that!

3 Questions about You

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

When I was a middle grade reader, I was positive I’d be a marine biologist. These days, though, something to do with digging in the dirt sounds pretty great.

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

I read The Blue Sword once a year, usually when the weather turns colder. It’s a little like comfort food by this point!

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

My family has lived in Oregon for generations, and some of the best memories from my childhood are from running around my great uncle’s filbert orchard on the McKenzie River. To this day, I keep a bag of filberts in my fridge for snacking and for when I’m missing home.

Thank you Melanie for talking with storymamas!

To learn more about Melanie and her other books visit her website or you can find her on Instagram or Twitter.

 

Sparkle Boy Shines Bright

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

3 Questions about Sparkle Boy

What was your inspiration for writing Sparkle Boy?

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

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

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

What was your process for writing Sparkle Boy?

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

3 Questions about You

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BONUS Question

What does your workspace look like? 

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

The wall of awards and her first painting!

 

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