The First Men Who Went to the Moon – With Author Interview & Inside Scoop

I was able to bring my son to a lovely author event sponsored by Book Beat, in Metro Detroit area, this past month. To celebrate March is Reading Month, Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rhonda Gowler Greene both spoke at the Oak Park Public Library about being an author and their new books.

Rhonda’s presentation was centered around her newly released book, The First Men Who Went to the Moon. It is a wonderful story that teaches readers about how Apollo 11 took its men on a mission to the moon. The book uses a rhyming and repetitive text structure that is also circular. On the side of each page, is even more information and facts about the text and illustrations. The book is entertaining, engaging and informative. The illustrations by Scott Brundage are gorgeous and make you feel as if you are in space. The story will hook readers of all ages. My son and I loved hearing her speak and have enjoyed reading the book and learning even more about the historical event!

Rhonda was kind enough to answers some interview questions and give us the inside scoop on the book!

Can you give us an inside scoop that we wouldn’t learn from reading your book? 

Well, this year is the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing.  When I wrote the story a few years ago, I didn’t have the anniversary in mind.  But, I’m so glad the manuscript sold when it did and the book is out for Apollo 11’s 50th.  

The story sold the summer of 2017.  I was told then the book would have a Spring 2019 release.  The publisher definitely wanted it out for the anniversary. I was so happy to hear that, but also a bit worried it might not actually happen because getting a picture book published in less than two years is a very tight squeeze.  Several of my books took three to four years from contract to release. But everyone worked VERY hard to keep the book on schedule. Right around Thanksgiving when I was so busy with other things, I had revisions to do. Then I had more due right around Christmas.  The illustrator (Scott Brundage- whose art for the book is amazing!), my editor, the copyeditors, the fact checkers, the designer, etc. were crazy busy, too, meeting deadlines. Everything came together though—and beautifully. I appreciated the team effort!

The 50th is being celebrated all over the country this year, and especially in July because the Apollo 11 mission was July 16–24, 1969.  I’m honored to be speaking and signing at the Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on July 21.

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

  I would be a children’s media specialist/librarian because I love books and I love working with kids.  I actually got my master’s to be a media specialist. (Before that, I was an elementary teacher.). I never worked as one, though, because I became a stay-at-home mom after my husband and I started a family (4 kids within 7 years).  I read A LOT to my kids. I think that sparked an interest in writing stories of my own. Luckily, after a few years (and 220 rejections!), I began selling some of my stories to publishers.

Maybe I’m a librarian at heart though.  I own so many books, my house looks like a library!

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

 Wow, it’s hard to pick just one.  I can think of certain books in all genres that have stuck in my mind.  But, I’ll pick one of my favorite picture books– Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin.  It’s a classic and a 1996 Caldecott Honor Book.  I never get tired of reading it. The writing by Lloyd Moss is so clever.  And the whimsical illustrations by Marjorie Priceman match the text perfectly.  Maybe it sticks in my mind because I have a music background (minored in music/piano) and— because I love going to the symphony!

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


 Homemade yogurt.  I hate to cook (would rather be reading or writing!), but I make my own yogurt, a big batch every couple of weeks.

Thanks so much Rhonda for putting together a wonderful presentation and for stopping by Storymamas for this interview. The book is published by Sleeping Bear Press and is out now! Lastly, we wish Rhonda all the best at Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum in July!

Hungry? Read Our Inside Scoop about Pancakes to Parathas

Thank you to author Alice B. McGinty and Little Bee Books  for sending us this delicious book to read and review. All opinions are our own!

Pancakes to Parathas – Breakfast Around the World takes readers on a trip around the world learning all about typical breakfast faire found in different countries. Each page is filled with an introduction to the popular breakfast food, bright and detailed illustrations by Tomoko Suzuki and a closer look at the country’s traditional dish.

This book taught me so much about foods I need to try! Many of foods Alice includes I have not gotten a chance to eat and I’m excited to have learned about them. Some I hadn’t even heard of, while others I knew the name, but didn’t know a lot about the ingredients or history. I love how each page also gives you the proper pronunciation of each word. It also provides a map at the end to show us where each country is locate on the map.

This book can add so much to any library collection. While reading it with young kids it helps them have a deeper understanding and appreciation for other cultures. In a classroom I see this as a great resource for studying countries, cultures or traditions. Wherever you choose to share this book, you are sure to come away hungry! (See link below for an awesome Israeli Salad recipe).

Alice was kind enough to stop by our blog and tell us the inside scoop of the book, information you wouldn’t know from reading the book. Here’s what she had to say:

The idea for this book began I saw a photographic article from the New Yorker showing pictures of children from around the world eating breakfast. “Could this be a picture book?” I wondered.

I decided after some thought that it could make a great picture book. But breakfast is complicated. Foods in one country can be very unfamiliar to people from other countries. As I looked at the photos and read the descriptions of the foods, I wondered how I could make breakfasts around the world accessible and understandable to young readers.

After a few weeks, I had an idea. I decided to focus on the things that we had in common. I chose one familiar element from each of the breakfasts, such as “breakfast in Australia is salty” and “breakfast in Israel is a homegrown feast” and I worked the text around that. That’s how the book began!

Although I’d visited several of the countries in the book (I had a great time chasing down cornmeal porridge in Jamaica and can give you a recipe if you like!), I wanted to find people who were actually from each country, in order to get the breakfast time details needed to make the book truly authentic. I loved the process of finding and communicating with people from each place, and asking them about their memories of breakfasts as a child. This involved reaching out to friends who grew up in, or still lived in, each country. It also gave me the chance to meet new friends. I had a lovely time at an Indian restaurant in my hometown, talking with the owner about his memories of breakfasts in India. Then, as an extra special surprise, he brought me back to the kitchen and had the chef give a demonstration of how to make parathas – with delicious samples to taste.

I think everyone enjoyed sharing their experiences, and the unique details they gave me helped each country in the book come to life!

If you’d like to try and make your own Israeli salad, click on the link below for a yummy recipe from Miri Leshem-Pelly.

Israeli Salad Recipe

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

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.

Dear Past & Future Nerdy Friends…

Dear Nerdy Friends,

A letter in no particular order of my thoughts and feelings on Nerdcamp as I reflect on the two amazing days!

I want to say a huge thank you to Colby & his team for organizing such an amazing event! Also, a gigantic shout out goes to many of the “behind the scenes” people as there wasn’t ever an empty water cooler, a roll of toilet paper missing or an AV issue that I encountered! So much thought and hard work went in to planning this amazing event and I took notice! So thanks!

I have been home almost 3 full days and my heart & and brain are still full with joy. Being at camp was such a great experience. I got to meet and learn more about so many people that I have only met through technology. Meeting many of the authors that have been cheerleaders for Storymamas was so rewarding. And I was introduced to many new authors that I am eager to read their books! 

I also got to spend 2 days learning, laughing and making my already long TBR pile even longer, alongside one of my fellow Storymamas, Courtney. Although it takes a 3 person team to run Storymamas, we have not all seen each other in person in quite a while. Most of our “meetings” are held through video conferencing and texting. So allowing me two days with a friend I don’t often see was amazing!

It was such a treat to attend sessions that helped me think about books. Many spoke about the power of books, the kinds of books and access to books we give kids. I loved listening to Chad Everett, Sara K. Ahmed, Donalyn Miller and Pernille Ripp give Nerd Talks. These talks made me stop and think. I also attended a hilarious panel on the importance of series books, that allowed me to hear more titles I can read and recommend but it allowed me to see the true personalities of people you’d never expect. (Looking at you Nathan Hale and James Ponti) I attended Raul the Third & Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s session and learned drawing activities to teach my students and another memorable session was hearing some readings of authors very early writing work! (Abby Cooper’s Diary and a fantastic 2nd grade story from Aaron Zenz). And a fun and important session was on the stigma and thought around “being nerdy” and the word nerd. And without saying who, I did learn that one of the nerds from the session was a cart-wheel- aholic! (Jarrett Lerner, Shelley Johannes & Elissa Brent Weissman).

Something else that I found refreshing was that Western High School had very limited cell service, so my cell battery drained very quickly. I soon switched it to airplane mode. Afraid that my phone would die and I wouldn’t be able to get in touch with someone, I decided to not post anything in the moment on social media. That was such a refreshing idea that upon reflection made me stay present for all there was to take in!

Finally, at the last minute I was given an opportunity to be an author assistant for talented author/illustrator, Sarah Jacoby, at Nerdcamp Jr. I had never attended this part and I am so glad I did. The sparkle and eyes of the kids who saw they were learning from authors & illustrators were so precious. One kid said to me at the beginning “the best part was I got to go home with a book last year” when I told him it would happen again, his eyes grew larger! Then after we did an art activity, a student stood up and said “don’t forget to sign your work! All artists should” a message they received right before from Arrchee Chung’s session! Nerdcamp Jr was the icing on the cake and a spectacular way to end an amazing 2 days.

So Nerdy friends, please keep in touch and if you’ve never been, please seek out one of the Nerdcamps happening near you and I know I’ll be in Parma next year! (And maybe another camp if I can swing it!)

Colby and crew, again, you’ve done an amazing thing here!


Warmly,

Storymama Kim

Take a trip to the Amazon Rainforest: Let’s Celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Bom Dia! Good Day! We want to join in celebrating multicultural day by sharing a wonderful travel series!

Thank you to Janelle, a Medallion Level Sponsor for sending us the book, Mystery of the Troubled Toucan by Lisa Travis, illustrated by Adam Turner to review and enjoy. Thank you also to Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom for raising awareness for multicultural books and for celebrating diversity! All opinions are our own.

The book Mystery of the Troubled Toucan is an adventure travel series for ages 6-9 called A Pack-n-Go Girls Adventure, this book takes place in Brazil and is the first in the series. It is about two girls, Sofia and Júlia, who develop a friendship when Sofia comes from Florida with her dad to visit the Amazon Rainforest. Along with the new experiences the rainforest brings she meets a new friend, Júlia.

It’s a mystery that involves a danger signaling toucan, pink dolphins, poachers and two girls who want to save the animals of the rainforest. Not only is it a story about the beautiful country of Brazil but Lisa does a wonderful job of embedding a tricky family situation for Sofia. Her parents are going through a divorce and she is constantly worried throughout the story about what her family will look like when she returns home. Meanwhile Júlia doesn’t seem to worry about too much and often says, “nao se preocupe”, don’t worry when Sofia starts to get upset or worried about something. The friendship the girls build throughout the story is heartwarming. We especially enjoyed the ending of the book when Sofia is on her way home and sees from the airplane the area where two bodies of water meet and she realizes that this is just like her family will be, “separate but not together”.

Lisa writes with such imagery you feel you’re in the rainforest as the girls experience various animals, plants, food and even the Portuguese language. Reading the story made us want to read more about Brazil and get on an airplane to experience it all ourselves! As a bonus feature at the end of the book there is a place with various lists of interesting facts about Brazil like: the history, government, a map, food, weather, Portuguese/English word translations and a travel journal for those that end up going to the country.

Check out the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website for more information about the wonderful event and their mission to spread the diverse book love!