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.

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!

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 

Join The Unicorn Rescue Society!

We were lucky enough to be chosen to join The Unicorn Rescue Society-The Basque Dragon blog tour!  Thank you Penguin Publishing for sending us a free ARC.  We have enjoyed this series and know it will be loved by all readers.

If you haven’t read the first book, you should start there…you’re in for a real treat!  In the first book, The Creature of the Pines, you meet the entertaining and adventurous characters.  And of course, learn about The Unicorn Rescue Society.

After you read this series, we’re pretty sure you will be wanting to join The Rescue Society yourself!  Afraid to go at it alone?  We’re here to help!  We’ve written a letter for you to give to a friend that might need a little convincing.  After all, secret societies are more fun with a pal!  Check it out below:

If our letter doesn’t help you convince your friend, here’s what Penguin has to say about The Unicorn Rescue Society. 

A fully illustrated, globe-trotting new middle grade fantasy-adventure series about mythical creatures and their cultures of origin, from the Newbery Honor-winning author of The Inquisitor’s Tale.

Elliot and Uchenna have barely recovered from their first adventure with the Unicorn Rescue Society when the mysterious Professor Fauna approaches them with an all-new quest. And this time, they’re going to have to cross the Atlantic Ocean to the Basque Country. Elliot and Uchenna, with Jersey in tow, soon wonder whether their newest, fire-breathing rescue might be more than they can handle. And why do the evil-doing Schmoke Brothers seem to be involved yet again?

This is the second book in Unicorn Rescue Society, an exciting and hilarious new series about friendship, adventure, and mythical creatures from around the world by Newbery Honor-winning author Adam Gidwitz teamed up with Mixtape Club founders Jesse Casey and Chris Smith, and Hatem Aly, illustrator of The Inquisitor’s Tale.”

The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Basque Dragon is out July 10th!  And be sure to check out www.unicornrescuesociety.com to learn more about the characters, the books, and the authors & illustrators.

Mary Had A Little Lab – Review and Author Interview

 

I first became acquainted with Sue’s work when Race zoomed into our nightly reading rotation. My son simply loved the story and so as a kidlit enthusiast, my job was to find out more about this author. I was so excited to see that she was coming out with a new book in a few short months, Mary Had A Little Lab and so I contacted her. She sent the Storymamas a copy of the book and agreed to do an interview!

Mary is a girl who loves to build and create. When she realizes that inventing by yourself can get lonely, she gathers a tuft of wool to put into her machine, and out comes a wooly sheep! Mary enjoys the sheep while it helps with chores and groceries, but what happens when her classmates want one too?! Well, Mary duplicates the sheep and soon the town becomes overrun by sheep, what will they do? And if you know the popular rhyme, “everywhere that Mary went….” you can try and guess, but as the story continues, Mary finds a way to solve the problem of too many sheep and how fun it can be with friends! 

This book embraces so much that kids will enjoy: science and experimenting, humor, girl power, using an old familiar rhyme to guide the new version of this story and teamwork! Great for all ages. We are so thankful Sue took the time to answer 3 questions about the book and 3 questions about herself.

3 Questions about Mary Had A Little Lab

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

Funny, creative, empowering

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

In a dream! I dreamt the title, and the next day made a connection that a lab could be a laboratory (as opposed to a dog–we have a labrador). Then I furiously wrote the first draft.

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

That if they love to do something, and they follow their dreams, they will eventually find happiness. Or, I hope they get a good laugh and enjoy all the fun details in the illustrations! I guess what I’m saying is, I hope they get out of it what they want to get out of it.

3 Questions about You

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

I think I would still always be writing things, but if I wasn’t making a career out of that, maybe I’d be a veterinarian.

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

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.  

Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret and Deenie by Judy Blume.

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

Homemade salsa. It’s one of the few things I make well and it’s really tasty.

To learn more about Sue and her work, feel free to visit her website, or find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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.