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!

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.

Back To School #booksnaps

In early June I was intrigued with #booksnaps when they kept popping up on my twitter feed. I would see a photo of a page from the book, the tweeter’s bitmoji and typed up text. Although most of the time I hadn’t read the book, I felt their fuel, their fire, their reaction to whatever they were reading. Wow!  If I was enjoying learning about what these people were thinking and learning during their reading, I am sure this would be a great tool to to use with my students, as they would love seeing each other’s #booksnaps and learning more about each other. It turns out the creator of #booksnaps presented at the International Society for Educational Technology (ISTE) Conference in San Antonio where 2 storymamas had the privilege of attending. We attended the ignite session for Tara Martin, #booksnaps creator. She shared during this session that she wanted to find a way to use the app her son couldn’t put down (Snapchat) to do some visual storytelling. And shortly after #booksnaps was born and has been taking the social media world by storm. Her session showed the power of #booksnaps and how it helps get into the student’s head on their thoughts and feelings toward text and how it relates to their life. Also, by using a book snap, it allows the reader to comprehend the text and internalize what the author is saying. Tara has been amazing and has created a website full of information and how-to videos on making #booksnaps. Although it started with Snapchat, she has made videos using many other apps, including Snapchat, Seesaw, Book Creator and more. Check it out! Free resources are great! Thanks Tara!

Shortly after the conference I made my first #booksnaps while reading the ARC copy of Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz. I used Snapchat, but as Tara’s website shows, many different apps can be used.

Using #booksnaps has helped me look deeper into text, share my thoughts, and also remember more parts of the story. I can only imagine the impact it will have with my students when I introduce it to them. Beside the impact, I know the students will be engaged in the process. I had so much fun finding the right words to write and bitmoji to use.

So for today we thought it would be fun to use three back to school books to show you how to use #booksnaps when reading a picture book. All 3 storymamas picked a book and tried it out.  We are all new at this and are learning as we go, but are excited to use with students. We can see it in our reading workshops and it would be great in content areas! Please feel free to comment on how you are using #booksnaps in the classroom! We hope you enjoy the books we chose and our #booksnaps!