Kim Bogren Owen – Book Reviews

Orchids

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Keith Haring – The Boy Who Kept Drawing

 

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

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

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

Kay and Keith

The Haring Family


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

3 Questions about You

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Half & half – for my morning coffee. 🙂

Kay talking about Keith and the book with kids

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

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.

Win a copy of Where Oliver Fits!

We have generously been given a copy of Cale Atkinson’s newest picture book, Where Oliver Fits, to giveaway to one lucky reader!  Many thanks to Tundra Books for donating a copy, and if you haven’t read our interview with Cale a few posts back, you’re missing out.  Be sure to enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest ends Wednesday at midnight and a random winner will be announced on Thursday.

 

Where Oliver Fits – A New Cale Atkinson Picture Book

The Storymamas fell in love with Cale’s work even before we actually read any of his books! How you ask? Cale released a book trailer prior to the release of his book To The Sea. After watching, we were eager to get our hands on the book and it did not disappoint. He has since released two more books that he both wrote and illustrated, Explorers of the Wild and Maxwell the Barber.

Where Oliver Fits is his new picture book released today. Cale was kind enough to answer our 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about himself. He also provided us with pictures to give you an inside look into his process.

Style test for Oliver

3 Questions about Where Oliver Fits

Who did you dedicate the book to and why?

In many ways I wrote Where Oliver Fits for anyone out there who at some point, (future, present or past) felt they didn’t really fit in. I think we all relate to that feeling at some point or another in our lives, myself included, so decided to dedicate it to ‘Anyone trying to find where they fit’. Hopefully those reading can see they’re not the only ones going through the trials and tribulations of trying to fit in, we all do, including Oliver!

What does your workspace look like? 

Funny enough, you can actually see more workspace in the Where Oliver Fits book trailer!

Link to trailer: https://vimeo.com/226057089

I have to admit my workspace doesn’t usually look quite as tidy as in the trailer. Generally there are papers, pencils, and pens strewn around! Also a good chance you’ll find a mug of coffee or tea.I usually have various things that inspire me or fun mementos on the magnet boards above my desk as well as different toys and things on my shelves.

My FAVORITE things at my workspace would probably have to be the statues a great friend of mine made for me as a surprise of each of my book characters (including Tim from To the Sea, The Explorer from Explorers of the Wild, and Oliver from Where Oliver Fits)!

What was your process for writing Where Oliver Fits?

The process writing this book all began with the initial idea: “We are all puzzle pieces, running around, trying to find our fit”.

A lot of the book’s main set up and progression came to me pretty easy after the idea. Like writing any book, it did have it’s many shifts, pivots and rewrites along the way!

Initially the book was written with only narration and the main puzzle piece character didn’t speak or even have a name! Later on it became clear that the story worked much better by giving the main character a larger role and personality in the story.

 

I also hummed and hawed for quite a long time on what the puzzles should be that Oliver dreams of being part of. For a long time there was going to be a big bearded pirate, a robot riding a unicorn and a cat wearing a suit. Later on there was also dinosaur scene and underwater scene. I’m happy with my final choices, but it definitely took some thinking and playing around to get there!

**Above are photos Cale provided us to see his process. They are both concept and style tests.

3 Questions about You

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

Whewf, that’s a tough one! (I’m going to assume you also mean if I wasn’t an artist too).

It’s hard for me to not jump to another creative ship, such as filmmaking or music. I could see working with animals. Let’s say either working to help rescue/protect animals, or opening my own pug puppy cafe, where they all wear little top hats and bowties.

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

I really thought ‘The Journey’ by Francesca Sanna was a recent beautifully done picture book.  The story and artwork did an amazing job of showcasing the refugee experience. It has stuck with me for it’s powerful story, as well as inspirational artwork!

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

Hmmm what’s in there…?

In the summer heat gotta have some watermelon in there!

Probably a craft beverage of some variety and definitely lots of the local fruits and veg that grow around where we live. Delicious cherries and peaches abound!

 

Thank you Cale for taking the time to answer our questions and send us these amazing behind the scene photos! Where Oliver Fits comes out today, so be sure to check it out.

To learn more about Cale, you can visit him on his website or follow him on Twitter and/or Instragram