Chasing the Sun & Inside Scoop

A friend of mine got together with his brothers and created this special picture book called Chasing The Sun. Mike, who is the Masserman brother I know, has always been a great storyteller and one who loves to travel. This book is a product of many of his adventures and takes its readers on an adventure too!

Tiki The Turtle who lives on an island his whole life, begins to wonder where the sun is going each day. He spends the next day chasing the sun. He encounters many of his friends and asks for their help and wisdom for finding it, but in the end, after visiting many spots on the island and talking to many animals, the sun has come back. Will he ever find out where it went? Or be satisfied with seeing it each day before it disappears?!

Told in rhyme and with vibrant, bold color illustrations, this book will keep the interest of all readers. Reading with my son, we discussed how Tiki never gave up on trying to find the sun, at one point he gets tired and we think might stop, but he comes upon a snail who thinks can help. It was great to talk about not stopping when things get hard or you aren’t finding a solution right away. We also loved pointing out all the different animals Tiki chats with during his journey. The Masserman brothers put a fun facts page in the back so we were able to talk more about each animal mentioned.

Personally knowing one of the authors and hearing a lot about the other brothers, I know the book’s message is one they all believe in: taking it all in and appreciating what you have and searching for what might still be out there!

We asked the Masserman brothers to give us the INSIDE SCOOP…

Hailing from Irvine, California, these Wolverines (they all went to Michigan – Go Blue) grew up surfing, hiking, playing music, laying in hammocks, and exploring the world.  They’ve surfed in Mexico, trekked in Alaska, backpacked through Southeast Asia, and are only just getting started!

This book has been a passion project ever since Mike spent his junior year in college abroad watching sunsets in Jerusalem, and scribbled a few notes in his journal about a kid chasing the sun.  Many years later, Oren visited Mike in Sydney, picked up that old journal, and this brand new adventure had suddenly begun.

By then, Oren had moved to Maui and started writing ukulele music, where he had kids dancing on boats to his tunes. Tal was finishing up Dental School at the time, and with his unique take on what kids like (island adventure books), this brothers publishing trio was formed.

Now that they’re all grown up with families (both Oren and Tal have two boys), they’re hoping to galvanize the next generation to care about the world.  Oren is a musician with Barefoot Minded, Tal is an orthodontist at Affiliated Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, and Mike does global policy and social impact at Lyft.

They hope to spread the aloha spirit with this book, and inspire people to appreciate the journey, dream out loud, and keep chasing it all.

Thank you to the Masserman brothers for joining Storymamas on their blog. To purchase the book, please feel free to click on the title of the book below. (It will take you to amazon, but it is not an affiliated link).

Chasing the Sun

Q & Ray Creators: Author/Illustrator Interview

Have you gotten a chance to check out Q & Ray? It is a wonderful beginning reader, graphic novel series written and illustrated by husband and wife team, Stephen and Trisha Shaskan. So far there are three Q and Ray series. Q and Ray Case #1 The Missing Mola Lisa, Case #2 Metorite or Meteor-Wrong? and Case #3 Foul Play At Elm Tree Park. They are written in graphic novel style in which friends Q and Ray end up using their observational skills to solve a mystery. These are great books for students who enjoy reading mysteries and can be used by teachers to help teach the mystery elements. Using a creative spin, Trisha has based the storylines off of real facts from art, science and history. This latest book, gives facts at the end about The All American Girls Professional Baseball League, while the other books talk about art, the Mona Lisa and meteors. They are filled with knowledge, humor, fun expressions (Leaping Limburger), friendship and mystery! Be sure to check them out!

Trisha and Stephen stopped by the blog to answer 3 questions about the series and three questions about them!

Three Questions about Q & Ray series

Stephen

Trisha

We love how curious and willing to learn Q and Ray are, where did the inspiration come from for creating these 2 characters?

After we both graduated college, Stephen and I met while working at an elementary school. For the first time, I was an educational assistant in a second-grade classroom, but also taught storytelling and creative writing after school for kindergarten through fifth-grade students. I found creative ways to engage students through stories, songs, humor, and imagination. Like our characters Q and Ray, the students were curious, eager, and able to learn. I have kept that teaching experience in my heart and I channel it, often subconsciously, while writing books. I am also a very curious person. Each of the Q & Ray graphic novels has a theme I wanted to learn about and one I know kids might be curious about—for example magic, Leonardo da Vinci, how meteors become meteorites, or the AAGPBL (All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.) The characters names Q & Ray are a riff on Q & A, questions and answers, which is at the heart of a mystery. As far as mysteries go, I was heavily influenced by Sherlock Holmes while writing this series. I am a huge fan. As my sister Nicole Speed says, Holmes’ mysteries are “a brain massage.”

It is not uncommon for writers and illustrators to never meet, as a husband and wife team, how does the process for creating this book work?

All the books that we work on together are ideas that we have worked on together from the start.

Both of us read each other’s work and critique all of it—and help each other. For example, you’ll find phrases I contributed in Stephen’s picture books and the phrases Stephen contributed in my picture books. But the big difference in our books that we’ve created together is that we’re both involved in the whole process from the beginning brainstorm, to outlining the plot, to critiquing. But when it’s time to write, I go off on my own. And when it’s time to illustrate, Stephen works individually as well. We don’t interfere with each other during that part, which is fun because we usually surprise each other.

Which Q and Ray have been your favorite to work on and why? (We know it’s like picking a favorite kid 🙂 )

The first Q & RAY was so great to work on because it was my first time ever creating a fully colored finished 48 page graphic novel. I grew up reading comics and dabbled in creating them in my late twenties. When I was finished with the first book it felt like a huge accomplishment. As the series progressed, I continued to learn about creating graphic novels and really trying to push the form more.

For me, Q & RAY #3: Foul Play at Elm Tree Park was my favorite to write because I had learned enough about the graphic novel format to utilize it more fully. Plus: Doris Sams and the AAPGBL (All-American Pro Girls Baseball League) make appearances, which is so important to me. When I was a young athlete, I was often the only girl or one of a few girls surrounded by boys on the field, rink, or court. I didn’t know women once had a pro baseball league. I would’ve loved to have known that. Now I get to share that information with young people everywhere who also often don’t know about it.

Three Questions about You…

If you weren’t writing books for children, what would you be and why?

For twelve years, I was a preschool teacher. If I wasn’t creating books, I would probably be involved in early childhood education in some way as well as creating art. I’m always creating art. Even when I’m working on children’s books, I make time to do different art projects on the side: I’ve done political posters, made magic wands, installed a submarine room in our basement, and always have some little thing I’d like to try or something I find in an old sketch book that sparks some creativity.

I have worked in education and the roles I loved doing most would lead me to being a reading specialist, media specialist, or teaching ELL (English Language Learners).

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

There are so many, this is a difficult question for an author/illustrator. Our bookshelves are lined with books that have stuck with me. I think Harold and the Purple Crayon is a great example of a book that has stuck with me. It’s so well crafted, simple, and elegant. It’s a book that works as a reader and as a read aloud.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame captures the heart of my childhood: friendship and the river. I grew up in a Mississippi River valley town, Winona, MN, like Ratty who lives on The River that grips “things with a gurgle.” The River flows through the story and connects Mole and Ratty as does nature and its cycles. Grahame’s springtime has “birds building, flowers budding, leaves thrusting—everything happy, and progressive, and occupied.”  Grahame’s lyrical language sings on every page. But the heart of this story is the friendship of the shy Mole and good-natured Ratty, the impetuous Mr. Toad, and worldly Badger who doesn’t like society. Despite their differences and shortcomings, the characters are wonderful friends to each other. No matter what happens in the Wild Wood or world beyond they help each other get out of trials and tribulations. In friendship, there is hope and refuge like the sparkle of sunlight reflected on the ripple of a wave.

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

Two bottles of cat medicine for our 19-year-old cat Eartha, who is my studio buddy and always so helpful.

A bottle of kombucha, which is for a house guest. I love welcoming friends and family into our home, so I always have something special in the fridge for an upcoming visitor.

Thank you so much Stephen and Trisha for stopping by our blog. We loved meeting both of you this past summer at NerdCamp and look forward to seeing you again in July!

Here are links to their websites if you’d like to learn more about them and their work:

Stephen : Stephen’s Website 

Trisha: Trisha’s website

Horse Meets Dog…Readers Meet Tim Miller

 

The storymamas are huge fans of Tim Miller’s talents and our kids can’t get enough of his Moo Moo books!  You could imagine our eagerness to read Horse Meets Dog, the new book he illustrated by author Elliot Kalan, and we appreciate the f&g copy sent to us by Harper Collins.

When Horse meets Dog, he thinks that he is a tiny horse, and similarly when Dog meets Horse, he thinks he is just a big horse.  The whole book is the two of them going back and forth in comedic fashion, trying to show each other that they are correct.  You’ll love the funny banter between the two animals and the wonderful illustrations!

Three Questions About Your Work…

The illustrations in Horse Meets Dog really make the story!  What was the collaboration like between you and author Elliott Kalan?

Hello Storymamas! Thank you so much for your interest in the book and for having me as a guest! (You’re welcome…and thank you for stopping by!)

The collaboration between Elliott and me making HORSE MEETS DOG was pretty straight forward. Elliott wrote it before I ever laid eyes on it, and then I got to do whatever I wanted; my favorite kind of collaboration! Although I toiled over the illustrations more than anything else I’ve done so far, the visuals themselves came easy to me because Elliott’s writing is so funny it draws itself. In that sense the collaboration was a breeze and a lot of fun!

What is your process for creating illustrations?

My process is basically this: 1) Read manuscript and let whatever visuals come to mind rise to the surface intuitively.

2) Take note of those impressions by scribbling tiny thumbnails in margins of manuscript.

3) Go at character sketches in a same way, drawing the first thing that comes to mind and then refine until you’re satisfied.

4) Storyboard thumbnail first impressions to see how everything looks together.

5) Next, see how you can smoosh everything into constraints of pagination limit. Nix what isn’t necessary and give prime real estate to the most important moments. At the same time, think about overall balance of book as a whole. How can you give it rythem throughout and differentiate things so that the reader can experience the unfolding of story in the most impactful way.

6) Be open to feedback from Editor and Art Director! Nothing is better than the opportunity to hear their input to broaden your thinking and shed light on things you may not have seen (Dana Fritts and Donna Bray were wonderful to collaborate with, and we had a lot of fun untangling some riddles in the pagination together early on).

7) Make rough sketches for finishes from thumbnails. Basically roughing out the ideas on a larger scale.

8) Then I make finished drawings with ink and brush on a lightbox working from roughs. I rarely draw each composition whole, but do it in fragments. For example, I’ll do a piece of Dog’s ear, then the snout, then the body and so forth. I do this because I’m rarely satisfied with each drawing as a total because I make a lot of mistakes. So, to cope with my sins I  build a collection of fragments for each composition and then stitch everything together like a collage in the computer.

9) Finally, I add the color digitally!

We are huge fans of your work!  What can we expect from you next?

Thank you so much! I feel incredibly lucky to be making books, and it means the world to me that you don’t hate them!

What’s next? Well, I can’t tell you because it’s still top-secret, but I can at least share that it’s partly inspired a former student of mine who wore cat ears to class every day.

Three Questions about Tim Miller…

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

I would draw and paint things that I like to look at because that is the one thing that makes me feel most connected to everything.

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

Most recently it’s Jon Agee’s The Wall in the Middle of the Book. I’m in awe of it, and can’t stop thinking about how brilliant he is at realizing the potential of the art form.

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

Eggs. Other than that the fridge is currently empty.


Many thanks to Tim Miller for the interview!  We had a chance to meet him this summer at Nerd Camp and appreciate the support he’s given us.  You can get your own copy of Horse Meets Dog today, and can learn more about him on his website.

Infamous Ratsos – Project Fluffy

Thank you Candlewick for allowing us to be a part of The Infamous Ratsos Blog tour. All opinions are our own.

We are big fans of the entire series and were equally thrilled after reading the latest story involving Ralphie and Louie. We adore all the characters, how they are unique and are always learning from each other and themselves.

In Project Fluffy, Louie decides to help Chuck get Fluffy to like him, even if it comes at the expense of his friendship with his brother.  Louie spends his time writing poems for Chuck, and helping him execute a plan to win her heart.  In the end, Chuck and Louie learn that the best plan isn’t a plan after all, and rather doing what you think they like, you should pay attention to what they like instead, is whats most important.

Kara LaReau took the time to  answer 3  questions about The Infamous Ratos-Project Fluffy and 3 questions about herself!

3 ?s about The Infamous Ratsos – Project Fluffy

What are three words you would use to describe this book?

Poetry, love, skateboards

What can fans of the series expect from this book? (and any hints on the future of the series!?)

As always, Louie and Ralphie try to do the right thing, but make some mistakes along the way. Louie is trying to help Chuck Wood, the most popular boy in school, get a girl’s attention, but Louie has some pretty flawed plans to make that happen. And Ralphie is jealous of all the time Louie is spending with Chuck. So it’s about how we express our feelings to those we care about, and it’s a bit about objectification.

This is the third book in the Infamous Ratsos series, and there will be three more! In fact, I just delivered Book Five a couple of weeks ago; I can’t believe I only have one left to write!

How did you originally come up with the characters Ralphie and Louie?

I was thinking about taking the leap and trying to write a chapter book (I’d only published picture books up to that point) but I knew I needed to find just the right idea. At the same time, my grandfather had just died, so I was thinking about him a lot — in particular, I was thinking about the stories I’d heard about him and his older brother, who were known in their neighborhood as “troublemakers.” No one has ever seemed to be able to tell me just what kind of trouble they got into! So I started imagining their shenanigans, and that’s how Ralphie and Louie were born. (FYI, my grandfather’s name was Ralph and his older brother’s name was Lou!)

3 ?s about You

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

I don’t have one in particular; I like to think about the personality of the parents. Recently, I bought some friends Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers, the new board book version of The Storm Whale by Benji Davies; and Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by my pal Jen Hill.

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

Julia Child, Gilda Radner, and Mr. Rogers. They all brought light into the world, in one way or another.

What has been your most memorable “author” moment in the last year?

The Infamous Ratsos was chosen for One Book South Dakota! I got to go to Sioux Falls and Brookings for the celebrations, where I spoke to more than 2500 kids! But really, any time I get to connect with my readers is a good day.

Kara speaking to 2,500 kids!

Thank you Kara for answering our questions! To learn even more about Kara, please visit her website. Or follow her on Instragram and Twitter.

How We Got to Now Blog Tour

Thank you to Penguin Publishing for providing us with a copy of the book to review.  All opinions are our own.

There are six innovations in our modern society that were not invented overnight, but rather took many years and many minds to create.  How We Got to Now takes a look at those six areas:  glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light.  In a non-fiction book perfect for middle to upper grade readers, author Steven Johnson captures the reader’s attention through engaging narrative text and authentic photographs.

Each chapter is a walk through history, with snippets of time periods and inventions that led to the world we live in today.  From physician John Snow’s discoveries about the spread of cholera, to Clarence Birdseye developing flash freezing for food. 

I loved how the book was divided into not only the chapters explaining the six innovations, but within each chapter were sections about the different time periods and inventions.  The photographs and captions throughout the book helped breakup the text-rich pages and provide amazing visuals to further comprehension .

We recommend this book for 5th grade and up!

Author Bio:  Steven Johnson is the popular, bestselling author of Wonderland and How We Got to Now, among other adult books. He was the host and co-creator of the PBS series How We Got to Now and has written for many blogs and publications, including TIMEWiredThe New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

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.

NERD ALERT! (Author Interview)

Enginerds is a hilarious story of a battle between boys and robots and it will make you laugh to the nerd degree! A group of boys who call themselves the EngiNerds, who are mostly friends, are all incredibly smart and most definitely nerdy, find themselves fighting bots who shoot food combustibles out of their butts (what’s not to love)! Ken, the main character, encounters a robot named Greeg in a box full of parts. He begins to put him together but doesn’t have time to finish and the next thing he knows, there is a walking, talking, 90 mph fart-blasting robot walking around his house! He has no idea where Greeg came from and after the initial excitement over finding his very own robot, he realizes he needs to figure out what to do with him and where he came from. Once he realizes a fellow EngiNerd has designed, built and delivered robots around town he’s faced with a new challenge: to save the world from their destruction! We can’t wait for the next book, Revenge of the EngiNerds coming February 2019! Thank you to author, Jarrett Lerner, for making us laugh and for taking the time to answer some questions about your book and yourself!

3 Questions about Enginerds

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

Friends. Food. Farts.

What literary character would Ken and Greeeg be friends with and why?

I like to think that Ken could be friends and have fun with just about anyone, but I REALLY like to think about what might happen if my characters somehow got mixed up with the kids (and adults, and clown-snakes, and lobster-monkeys) in Rob Vlock’s SVEN CARTER series.

And as for Greeeg — I like to imagine him meeting WALL-E, and hopefully learning a thing or two from the little guy!

Besides peanut butter on popcorn, were there any other bizarre (but yummy) food references that didn’t make the final draft?

No. But I’ve got a friend who often eats pickles with his ice cream. I’m sure I’ll work that into a book sooner or later!

3 Questions about You

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

A donut-taster. I don’t think that’s really a job, but since we’re in the world of hypotheticals, I’m making it one. And WHY would I want to be a donut-taster? Because I’d get to taste donuts all day!

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

Come on, Storymamas — you should know that, when asked a question like this, a passionate reader can never just name ONE book. How about I limit myself to three? Here I go: Ann Braden’s THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS, Kelly Yang’s FRONT DESK, Yuyi Morales’s DREAMERS, and Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James’s CROWN: AN ODE TO THE FRESH CUT. Okay, fine — that was four! We better hurry up and move on to the last question before I name a fifth (which would probably be Thyra Heder’s ALFIE or Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s I’M SAD or maybe Christina Uss’s THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE.)

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

A large jar of yeast.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Jarrett Lerner and his nerdiness visit his website or you can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Cover Reveal *Just Like Rube Goldberg*


Storymamas are big fans of Sarah Aronson‘s work!  Check out our blog post with her from last year as she talks all about her Wish List Series.

We were so thrilled that she is allowing us to do the cover reveal for her latest project, Just Like Rube Goldberg – The Incredible True Story of The Man Behind the Machines. When we chatted with Sarah last week she was so giddy talking about this book. She spoke with passion in her voice and you could feel that this book is a labor of love. Before we reveal the cover we asked Sarah to tell us the story about the story…

The story behind the story is a story I’ve been telling a lot over the last four years. Just like Rube Goldberg, the story of this book is a story of play and re-invention.

To be honest, I never thought I would write a picture book.

My original writing goals were strictly YA.

But when a book I had poured my heart into (for many years) failed to find an editor, I decided it was time to change the way I was doing things.

I gave myself a challenge.

Six months of play. Six months of writing without expectations. For six months, I would write for myself. For fun. I challenged myself to write everything I never thought I could write.

Even though it now seems fun to write this way, I was pretty stressed out when I started. Daring myself to write a new way felt risky. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I wanted to live a creative life, but I didn’t want to suffer. Or be sad. I wanted to enjoy the process of writing.

So as they say, “Reader, I went for it!”

I wrote lots of picture books. I wrote an essay that someday, I want to do on The Moth. I wrote the beginning of an adult novel (which someday I will finish), as well as the first of what would become The Wish List books.

And then, like magic, there was Rube.

The idea of writing about Rube Goldberg came after hearing my friend, Tami Lewis Brown, read a book she was writing about Keith Haring. Her words made my brain swirl. I wondered if I could write a picture book biography.

This is the part where a lot of my friends shake their heads and ask, “What took you so long?”

You see, I had always been a huge fan of Rube’s work. My father had introduced me to Rube Goldberg contraptions and comics when I was a kid. (He actually compared the tax code to a Rube Goldberg machine in a text about Economics.) As a writer, I am interested in writing about Jewish people and experiences.

Also: I’m really good friends with a lot of great writers of non-fiction. (Looking at you, Tanya Lee Stone!)

Bottom line, like the most complicated Rube Goldberg machines, I don’t do anything the easy way.  (Check my bio! I have had a lot of jobs!)

So I did it!

I read everything I could find. I talked to cartoonists. I thought about creativity. I went to the Rube Goldberg machine contest and heard Jennifer George speak about her grandfather.

And just like Rube, I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote.

And then I got really lucky. Allyn Johnston (Beach Lane Books) loved the manuscript! Robert Neubecker agreed to take my words and create a work of art!

I literally can’t look at this book without smiling and laughing and crying!

Here’s my favorite Rube Goldberg quote.


Creating this book has been so much fun! Seeing it come to life has been magical and humbling and absolutely thrilling! I can’t wait to introduce readers to Rube and all the ways they can explore creativity!

And without further ado…………..

This gem of a book releases in March. Be sure to preorder it now from your local bookstore.

Thank you so much, Sarah, for this amazing opportunity to share such a wonderful book with a powerful and inspiring message!

Also, feel free to visit https://www.rubegoldberg.com/ to learn more about Rube, enter contests, and other fun stuff!

Meet Jane Goodall

 

*A special thanks to Penguin for generously giving The Storymamas a review copy of the book.  All opinions are our own.

I am Jane Goodall by Brad Meltzer is one of multiple books in this engaging picture book biography series.  The reader meets Jane Goodall when she was a young child, and it chronologically tells the story of her life.  Illustrator Christopher Eliopoulous uses cartoon images that appeal to the reader and help make the words come to life.  We love that it reads like a story and includes comic-style speech bubbles, which entice most young readers.

When you take a look at this series, you’ll find the rest of the biographies are about people in the world that kids are eager to learn about!

Here are some ideas for using this series in the classroom:

-Biography projects.  This series is great on its own, or if working in a higher grade, they could be used to differentiate for readers that aren’t quite ready for a chapter book.

-Persuasive writing.  I am Jane Goodall is a great book to read aloud to kickoff a persuasive writing or petition unit.  My students were inspired by her work with chimpanzees and then wrote about their own passions.

-Teaching non-ficiton reading strategies. This narrative non-fiction series lends itself well to note making, and the timeline at the back of the book is a great text feature to point out.

We hope you enjoy this series as much as we did!

 

 

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.