Two Winners For Copies of Nancy Churnin’s New PB’S.

Featured

Last month I featured the two most recent PB released by author NANCY CHURNIN. Today I am thrilled to announce the winners of signed copies of those books.

Danielle Dufayet wins a copy of BEAUTIFUL SHADES OF BROWN: THE ART OF LAURA WHEELER WARING.

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Jane Healy is the winner of a copy of FOR SPACIOUS SKIES.

thumbnail 5Congratulations! to Danielle and Jane and thanks to all who commented. Please send me your address so I can let Nancy know where to send the books.

Katey Howes Talks About Bodily Autonomy and Consent in Her New PD: Rissy No Kissies.

Today it is my pleasure to host award-winning picture book author KATEY HOWES who will talk about her new book RISSY NO KISSIES. The book explores the topics of bodily autonomy and consent, very important concepts to instill in young children. Here is my review of this important book:

“When a love bird doesn’t like to get or give kisses, she wonders if something is wrong with her. How can she show those she loves that she cares?

With gentle assurances in words and illustrations, this story teaches young children and those they love, the importance of bodily autonomy and consent. It should be a part of every child’s library and is the perfect introduction for discussions about these important concepts.”

And now, here’s Katey!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Darlene. I’m delighted to share a little bit about the process of writing my consent-themed picture book, Rissy No Kissies. (Illustrated by Jess Engle)

Rissy Cover

How and why did you decide to write on this topic?  

One of my three kids is exceptionally cuddly. The other two are much less comfortable with physical expressions of affection. I’ll admit that, early on, this was sometimes difficult for me to accept and respect. Even knowing how important it is for children to have control of their own bodies, there were times I really just wanted to give them a squeeze!

But as they grew, I grew, too – in my understanding of sensory processing differences, in my joy at seeing the unique ways they shared love, and in my conviction that there were not enough resources – for kids OR parents – that explained how common our family’s experience was. I grew more convinced that families needed books highlighting how natural it is to have differing preferences regarding touch and affection, resources that teach the importance of bodily autonomy and consent.

I had been playing with the idea for several months when I visited Minneapolis while promoting another picture book, Be A Maker. Lerner Publishing is headquartered there, and their team was so kind to me, helping me contact local schools and bookstores and setting me up with a tour of their offices. During that trip, I had the chance to meet up with my Be A Maker editor, Shaina Olmanson, and to bounce some of my manuscript ideas off of her. Shaina also felt strongly that kids and caregivers could really use stories that shined a light on boundaries, autonomy and consent. Her interest motivated me to work even harder on this concept!

How did you arrive at a rhyming scheme to tell the story? 

It’s funny. Often, I try really hard not to rhyme, but can’t seem to get away from it. When I first started writing this story, I kept finding rhyming couplets in my work, even when I was aiming for prose. At first, I contained the rhyme to a refrain between prose sections. The original refrain was:

 Kisses are something

That Love Birds like best

But Rissy No Kissy

Is not like the rest

With reflection, I realized this refrain centered Rissy’s differences, not her strengths. I dropped it and worked to rewrite with a focus on Rissy’s powerful opinions and proud voice. My character notes show a few words I used to envision Rissy:

Determined

Tenacious

Persistent

Emphatic!!

That descriptor “emphatic” made its way into a new refrain:

“No kissies,” Rissy chirruped, with a most emphatic squeak.”

and soon set up a rhythm and rhyme scheme that I was able to use to structure the entire text. If you check my notebooks from the time, you’ll find extensive lists of words that rhyme with “chirp,” “tweet,” and “squeak.”

Did you know from the start it would be lovebirds?

I almost always write human characters, so this book was a departure for me. It was, however, a calculated departure.

I knew going in that, for kids who have been made to feel left out or rejected when their preferences don’t fit in with other’s expectations, the interactions in this book could be really painful. Seeing a character too much like themselves being called rude, mean or sick because they don’t like hugs and kisses might make the book too emotionally taxing – and I wanted it to be a book that instead balanced the honesty of those hard moments with warmth and light and comfort.

The rhyming text helps strike that balance, as do the soothing palette and adorable characters illustrator Jess Engle created. By making Rissy an animal, we let readers put a little distance between her experience and their own.  By making her a lovebird specifically, we play on the idea that your whole species might be defined by a certain way of sharing love – but that you don’t have to be.

Please add anything else you want readers to know

There have been a number of picture books about autonomy and consent released recently, and I am so thrilled to see this. No one book speaks to every reader, or gets all aspects of this nuanced concept across. I’d love for teachers and parents to check out other suggestions including: 

In addition to reading books on the topic, it’s important for caregivers to grow their knowledge base and practice the skills needed to set, communicate, and respect boundaries. I highly recommend following @comprehensiveconsent on Instagram for daily parenting advice from a fabulous and frankly funny consent educator.

You can also check out this printable lesson plan created by my cousin-in-law (that’s a thing, right?) and curriculum expert Leah Robinson. It includes a lovebird craft and role play cards (sample below) perfect for 4-8 year olds learning about consent.

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You’ll find even more activities on my website – including this kid-friendly recipe for Sunflower Love Cookies: perfect to pair with Rissy No Kissies.

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Katey Howes HeadshotKatey Howes is an award-winning picture book author and literacy advocate. Her picture books Be A Maker and Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe are popular in maker spaces and STEM education, and her debut book, Grandmother Thorn, was named an Anna Dewdney Read Together Honor Book. A former physical therapist, Katey lives in Eastern Pennsylvania with her husband, three daughters, and a pup named Samwise Gamgee. She loves reading, weaving, cooking, camping and travel. In addition to writing for children and raising kids who love books, Katey contributes to parenting, literacy, and STEAM education websites.

“You can order a signed copy of Rissy No Kissies from my local indie, Newtown Bookshop. Just follow this link: https://www.newtownbookshop.com/katey-howes-author-page

I’m also happy to snail mail a signed bookplate to you with proof of purchase. Email howes_kathryn@yahoo.com with mailing address and personalization request. Or tag @kateywrites on Twitter with a photo of your copy or receipt for your pre-order. I will follow and DM for your mailing address. “

Love to Read? Share It With Kids on March 2: Read Across America.

“When people make the time to read with children, children get the message that reading is important.” NEA

Students, parents, teachers and people from many walks of life, will read to children March 2,  in recognition of “National Read Across America Day,” a program the National Education Association established 20 some years ago.

Athletes and actors will issue reading challenges to young readers. Governors and other elected officials will recognize the role of reading with proclamations.

Naomi Gruer, a children’s writer and preschool teacher, participated in a remote event,   “World Read Aloud Day,” a few years ago.

“Reading to kids made me so happy because, in that moment, we explored the world inside the story together.”

To prepare the children for the online experience, Naomi asked them to listen for certain things as she read — a funny incident or a silly outcome or a character acting in a peculiar way. “The minute I was on Skype with the kids, everything else melted away. It was as if I was in the classroom with them,” she said.

Later, as a Microsoft Guest Educator, she was asked by several educators to read to their students. One request came from a teacher in Spain, who wanted English to be read to her classroom.

Naomi applied the same format to all her remote classroom sessions: an introduction, followed by reading (either chapters or picture books depending on the age of the students.)

“They listened actively and were ready to point out and discuss the humor. Introducing students to my dog was the ultimate ice breaker.” Naomi blogs at https://bmoreenergy.wordpress.com

What You Can Do:

There are many free and low cost ways to provide children with books in print, online, audio and video formats. For example, the “We Need Diverse Books” program provides free diverse books to schools serving low-income students around the country.

To learn more:

Visit https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/read-across-america/support-your-readers/free-materials

How to help kids develop the reading habit:

  • Keep books everywhere you spend time. Put them in the car, in every room of the house and tuck them in backpacks and purses.
  • Visit the library often. Knowing how to use the library and learning the benefits of a library fosters a love of reading as well as a genuine respect for the services libraries provide.

Do you have a favorite children’s book? Please share it in the Comment section.

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist and voracious reader of  children’s books.

Three Recent Middle Grade Novels in Verse I highly Recommend.

Since the publication of my own MG novel in verse WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston) in 2020, I have been reading a number of verse novels.

Sometimes I read them to get inspiration. Or to see how the rhythm moves the story. Others I read for pleasure and the sheer joy of raw emotion and the heartfelt urgency this art form provides. These stories use words sparingly, cutting to the deep and essential truths we all struggle with and search for.

Here are three recent verse novels I recommend:

Before the Ever After by [Jacqueline Woodson]

BEFORE THE EVER AFTER by Jacqueline Woodson chronicles the events in ZJ’s life as he comes to terms with his pro football dad’s mood swings, forgetfulness, headaches, and inability to continue playing football. Seen as a hometown hero, ZJ’s dad’s puzzling symptoms seem to be linked to the numerous concussions he received while playing the sport he adored.

With the help of his three friends – together know as the Fantastic Four – ZJ tries to find a new normal beyond football and learns that life for all of them still goes on. Even though it’s not all sunny, with the love and support of family and friends, there is much to celebrate.

RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE by Rajani LaRocca  (Blurb taken from the Amazon book page)

 

For the most part, Hannah’s life is just how she wants it. She has two supportive parents, she’s popular at school, and she’s been killing it at gymnastics. But when her cousin Cal moves in with her family, everything changes. Cal tells half-truths and tall tales, pranks Hannah constantly, and seems to be the reason her parents are fighting more and more. Nothing is how it used to be. She knows that Cal went through a lot after his mom died and she is trying to be patient, but most days Hannah just wishes Cal never moved in.

For his part, Cal is trying his hardest to fit in, but not everyone is as appreciative of his unique sense of humor and storytelling gifts as he is. Humor and stories might be his defense mechanism, but if Cal doesn’t let his walls down soon, he might push away the very people who are trying their best to love him.

Told in verse from the alternating perspectives of Hannah and Cal, this is a story of two cousins who are more alike than they realize and the family they both want to save.

Reha feels torn between two worlds: school, where she’s the only Indian American student, and home, with her family’s traditions and holidays. But Reha’s parents don’t understand why she’s conflicted—they only notice when Reha doesn’t meet their strict expectations. Reha feels disconnected from her mother, or Amma, although their names are linked—Reha means “star” and Punam means “moon”—but they are a universe apart. Then Reha finds out that her Amma is sick. Really sick. Reha, who dreams of becoming a doctor even though she can’t stomach the sight of blood, is determined to make her Amma well again. She’ll be the perfect daughter, if it means saving her Amma’s life.

red cover

Here’s my review: Heartbreaking, heartfelt, and realistically, and authentically told in the voice of a thirteen year old Indian-American girl. I recommend this novel for anyone who wonders what is like to suffer the loss of a parent, and anyone who feels torn between two different worlds.  

 

 

Another book that has made an impression on me is : CLOSER TO NOWHERE by Ellen Hopkins.

While a popular author of YA novels in verse, this is Ellen’s first MG in the format she excels in and she hits all the right notes. Here’s the blurb from the book:

Closer to Nowhere by [Ellen Hopkins]  

For the most part, Hannah’s life is just how she wants it. She has two supportive parents, she’s popular at school, and she’s been killing it at gymnastics. But when her cousin Cal moves in with her family, everything changes. Cal tells half-truths and tall tales, pranks Hannah constantly, and seems to be the reason her parents are fighting more and more. Nothing is how it used to be. She knows that Cal went through a lot after his mom died and she is trying to be patient, but most days Hannah just wishes Cal never moved in.

For his part, Cal is trying his hardest to fit in, but not everyone is as appreciative of his unique sense of humor and storytelling gifts as he is. Humor and stories might be his defense mechanism, but if Cal doesn’t let his walls down soon, he might push away the very people who are trying their best to love him.

Told in verse from the alternating perspectives of Hannah and Cal, this is a story of two cousins who are more alike than they realize and the family they both want to save.

I loved this book because of the honest and raw voice of Cal who won my heart from page one. He is the kid who drives you crazy because you can’t quite figure out what’s going on. But he is also the kid who makes you swell with pride when he opens his heart and does what he is capable of. A story of family and what it means to belong. Highly recommended.

I hope you’ll consider reading these amazing books. Also, feel free to share your favorite middle grade novels in verse. Happy reading!

 

The Winner of STARFISH Tote Bag is…

On February 15, I had the pleasure of featuring LISA FIPPS and her debut middle grade novel-in-verse STARFISH. Lisa offered one of these awesome tote bags as a gift to one commenter drawn at random. Starfish book bag

I am pleased to announce the winner: Natalie Aquirre. Please email me your address so I can have Lisa send it out to you.

Thanks to all who entered and look for STARFISH at an independent bookstore near you.

https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781984814500

Author Vivian Kirkfield Takes Us From Here to There With Her New Picture Book + Zoom Visit Give-away.

Today it is my pleasure to post an interview with picture book author VIVIAN KIRKFIELD who will talk about her newest book FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES.

from-here-to-there-inventions-coverHere’s Vivian:

What led you to write a book on transportation pioneers?

I never started out thinking I would write a compilation book about transportation pioneers, Darlene. But my sister told me a story about a Swedish immigrant who came here in 1905 at the age of 17 with only a few dollars in his pocket. He worked as a logger and as a miner and even tried his hand as a car salesman, but he couldn’t even sell the one floor model. Eric Wickman refused to give up. He bought the floor model with the money he had saved and began offering shuttle rides to the miners in Hibbing, MN. His shuttle was so popular, he had to buy more cars and hire more drivers. Everyone wanted rides…to a shop, to visit family…and finally, he even built a bus so he could help out more passengers. And the lovely thing about Eric was that he always wanted to partner with his rivals, not put them out of business. And eventually, Eric’s little shuttle company became Greyhound. I knew that was a story kids would love. I wrote it and Essie, my amazing agent, sent it to Ann Rider at HMH. Ann loved the story – and she had an innovative idea…she asked if I could write several more similar stories about things that move.

Of course, I said YES! She asked for a list…I created a list of the first gas-powered auto, the first bike, the first intercity passenger steam train, and more. She loved all of them. I think I had 6. But she wanted 9…I added the folding wheelchair, the first robotic, and the rocket. The inventions span over 200 years…and many countries. I love that it shows kids that inventions came from all over the world and from all types of people.

But they all had one thing in common. They never gave up! No matter how many times they failed. And I think this is really important for kids to understand…that failure is an important part of success.

What was your research process like? How long did that take since there are so many people you had to learn about?

Darlene, when I look back, I do wonder how I managed to research and write so many stories. I only had about 7 or 8 months…the bus story was ready. And I did have a story about the hot air balloon that only needed to be tweaked and trimmed. But the other seven manuscript were written from scratch. Thank goodness for critique buddies who were always there to read a manuscript and give me feedback.

My process? I’d decide what I was going to write about. First, I checked the internet and online sources. Then I used the library. Not only did I have to find an inventor of something that moved, I also had to find information about that inventor – childhood, the AHA moment, and how the invention impacted our world today. I used census records if there were any (not for the hot-air balloon inventors, of course 😊). I contacted local libraries and historical societies in the towns where the inventor lived or worked. And sometimes I was able to speak with someone who knew the person…Eric Wickman’s granddaughter and I became email friends. And I got to speak with Raye Montague’s son.

It took about one month for each manuscript – that’s probably a record since most of my other nonfiction pb manuscripts took a lot longer. But I was on a deadline – and sometimes, when you have a deadline, that helps you focus on what really needs to be done.

What 3 facts were your favorite discoveries while writing this?

Three favorite facts? I have so many! I truly learned so much as I researched these amazing visionaries. But here are three:

I discovered that Benjamin Franklin was in France in 1783, on the day that the Montgolfier’s manned hot air balloon ascended. He’d been negotiating the Treaty of Paris between the United States and England after the Revolutionary War. Many of us think the war ended in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence – but that was only the beginning. And in his diary, Franklin wrote: “We observed it lift off in the most majestic manner.”

I discovered that the very first gas-powered automobile had NO gas tank, NO cooling system, NO steering wheel, NO lights, NO brake pads, and only three wheels. But the most fascinating discovery was that the inventor’s wife had contributed all the money for his experiments and prototype. And when he was afraid to take it on a road trip, she did. Her actions convinced the public that cars must be safe and easy to drive if EVEN a WOMAN could do it! On her 65-mile trip, her courage and ingenuity never failed and when she returned home, she instructed her husband as to what he needed to add to make the car better. And I’m happy to say that in 2016, 125 years after she tiptoed out of the house to take the kids to their grandmother’s house, Bertha Benz was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn MI – for her invaluable contribution to development and design of the modern automobile.

I discovered that all of these visionaries believed that nothing is impossible if you can imagine it. When Raye Montague was seven-years-old, she took a tour of a submarine. She asked the tour guide what she’d need to know in order to operate something like that. It was 1942. It was the deep South. And Raye was African American. The tour guide told her that she’d need to be an engineer, but that SHE didn’t EVER have to worry about THAT. And do you know what Raye did? She ran home and told her mother that she was going to become an engineer. And even though she wasn’t allowed to take engineering classes in college, Raye went on to become the FIRST WOMAN and FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN project manager for the Navy, leading a team of engineers to create the first computer-generated ship design.

I LOVE stories like this! And I know that they are so inspiring to young people. I just got some thank you notes from a school visit – and it validates my belief that kids need books like this!

What are some ways teachers can use this book in their classroom?

I think each chapter lends itself to classroom discussion and extension activities in various curriculum areas – science, math, geography, reading, writing, art, SEL…here’s an example for how a teacher might use Chapter Four: Black Forest or Bust:

Bertha Benz lived in a time when most people thought women were delicate and weak. But in order to test drive the car, she took a 65-mile road trip with her sons through Germany’s Black Forest. Bertha used her ingenuity…as well as her hat pin and garters to keep the car going. Bertha’s trip garnered lots of publicity – newspapers spoke of how safe a car must be if even a woman could drive it.

Chapter 4 Black Forest or Bust Automobile Bertha Benz

Ask your students:

  1. You’ve been asked to cover a big news story! It’s 1888 and a woman is driving a new-fangled automobile through your town. Write an article for the newspaper.
  2. The first gas-powered auto had only three wheels and a hand-brake. What would the first gas-powered auto have looked like if you had designed it? Draw a picture of it.
  3. Bertha drove from her home in Mannheim, Germany to her mother’s house in Pforzheim. Get a map of Germany and trace her journey through the Black Forest.

I hope you all get a chance to read the book…and if you do, I would much appreciate a review on Amazon. Those Amazon reviews are so very important – they help other customers – they help with Amazon’s marketing of the book. It only takes a minute or two…I know some of you write amazing lengthy reviews, but that’s not necessary. A couple of sentences would be perfect!

The other thing I want to mention is that #50PreciousWords is just around the corner! Last year we had 392 entries and almost 6000 amazing comments on that blog post. And the prizes this year are PHENOMENAL! Editor and agent and author critiques, seats in picture book writing classes, signed picture books, even an illustrator portfolio consultation. The contest runs from March 2 to 7…and the winners will be announced on March 20, the first day of spring! A new beginning for all of us…and hopefully an end to this health crisis. It was an unbelievable difficult 2020 and I believe 2021 will continue to be challenging – but there is hope in sight – and I believe the contest and the amazing prizes will be a shot in the arm, even if you haven’t had your Covid vaccine yet. 😊 Here is the link for the sharpen-your-pencils and a sneak peek at #50PreciousWords post: https://viviankirkfield.com/2021/02/11/happy-national-inventors-day-and-a-sneak-peek-at-50preciouswords/

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Darlene! You are such a wonderful cheerleader and supporter of all things kid-lit!

It is always my pleasure to host you Vivian!

Vivian is giving away a 30-minute Zoom chat – with a writer or teacher/class or parent/children. To enter, please leave a comment telling us about your favorite mode of transportation. One name will be drawn at random from those entered and announced on this blog at a later date.

Here is my review of Vivian’s entertaining and informative book:

From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves by Vivian Kirkfield -Illustrated by Gilbert Ford

From hot air balloons and horse drawn carriages, to bicycles, trains, buses, and rockets, inventors around the world have looked for ways to go faster and farther more efficiently. This collection of the pioneers of transportation is an informative and entertaining introduction to the science of how people travel and the innovations that get us from one place to another. Engaging illustrations and fascinating facts bring to life the visions of the people who invented better and faster ways to move on land, sea, and in the air.

                Readers get to learn a bit about each of the people behind the invention and the perseverance they all shared in getting their inventions out into the world. The underlying message of believing in yourself and never giving up is a good one for students. This is a perfect addition to the elementary school classroom nonfiction collections. 5 stars

 

cropped-pippa-home-page-031-e1543009948671

 Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, and visiting kidlit friends all around the world. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the picturesque town of Bedford, New Hampshire. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge. Her nonfiction narratives bring history alive for young readers and her picture books have garnered starred reviews and accolades including the Silver Eureka, Social Studies Notable Trade Book, and Junior Library Guild Selection.

To connect with Vivian and learn more about her books:

Website: http://www.viviankirkfield.com 

Vivian’s books are available at Barnes & Noble and indie bookstores, as well as Bookshop.org and Amazon. If you order from her indie bookstore, you can get a signed copy. If you order from anywhere else and would like a signed bookplate, please email her at: viviankirkfield@gmail.com.

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The Story Behind STARFISH: An MG Debut by Author Lisa Fipps

Why not leave a comment for a chance to win an awesome book bag. STARFISH is a book that belongs on every child’s bookshelf!

Darlene Beck-Jacobson

STARFISH by Lisa Fipps is a middle grade debut novel that is getting a lot of starred reviews and accolades for good reason. This novel-in-verse centers around a topic not usually seen and long over due in kid lit: fat-shaming. Here’s the blurb for this book:

STARFISH coverEllie is tired of being fat-shamed and does something about it in this poignant debut novel-in-verse.
Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules–like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” And she’s found her safe space–her swimming pool–where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she…

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Kindness: How Can You Make a Difference?

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain

In a world where we are bombarded by mean words, negative news, and depressing events, it sometimes feels like kindness is hard to find. Even though we are still in the middle of Covid and social distancing, we can spread kindness through the words we say and the things we do.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021 is RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS DAY. This is a day set aside to reflect on how we might be kind to our fellow man. Buy the person standing in line behind you  a cup of coffee. Pay for the gasoline of the car behind you. Volunteer at a local food bank. Pay the toll of the person behind you. Give a piece of chocolate to the woman who greets you so warmly at the gym. Let the “other” person have the parking spot closer to the store. Say “Thank You” to the cashier at your favorite grocery store. Leave some home baked goodies on the doorstep of a neighbor who is alone and has not been able to get out during this time.

You get the idea.

There are so many ways we can show kindness to others. Many of us do kind things every day. But, why not make an effort to really ramp up the kind quotient on Wednesday and see how good it makes you feel. When we pass on acts of kindness, it changes the giver as well as the receiver.

For those who want to take kindness to another level, read below.

If you had $1,000.00 to spend, how would you use it to benefit your neighborhood or community?  Entrepreneur Ari Nessel of THE POLLINATION PROJECT, will grant  awards of $1,000.00 each to individuals who want to make a difference. You can apply for one of these awards at: http://www.thepollinationproject.org.

Here is a perfect opportunity to do something lasting for your neighbors, friends or town.  Pass it on. May kindness follow you wherever you go.

I’ll leave you with one of the verses from my recent middle grade book WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston).

KIND
What kind of ice cream do you like, Cody? asks Gran
when we’re sitting around the table.
Everyone has a scoop of
chocolate
vanilla
strawberry
butter pecan
or orange sherbet.

Cody looks at Jill with her scoop
of strawberry and says, The same
as Jill, I guess.
You hate strawberry ice cream, Cody, Jill says.
You hate anything with strawberries, remember?
Cody sighs, frowns,
shakes his head. Then I don’t know what kind, he says.

Jill looks like she might cry
until Katy smiles, pats Cody’s arm.
Taste all of them until you find
the one you like, she says.

The rest of the day is just like that, Katy doing
one kind thing after another for Cody,
Mom, Gran, Pops beaming smiles,
me and Jill staring in disbelief.

It isn’t hard to believe Katy is kind. She’s
the princess of kind everyday.
What is hard to believe is how a wish
that was supposed to help Cody
be a boy full of spirit,
a boy once kind himself,
turns him instead
into someone empty.

“Three things in human life are important:  the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; the third is to be kind.” – Henry James

The Story Behind STARFISH: An MG Debut by Author Lisa Fipps

STARFISH by Lisa Fipps is a middle grade debut novel that is getting a lot of starred reviews and accolades for good reason. This novel-in-verse centers around a topic not usually seen and long over due in kid lit: fat-shaming. Here’s the blurb for this book:

STARFISH cover

Ellie is tired of being fat-shamed and does something about it in this poignant debut novel-in-verse.
Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules–like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” And she’s found her safe space–her swimming pool–where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life–by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.

I asked the author LISA FIPPS how the story came about. Here is what she had to share.

When you’re a kid, you want to read books about people like you. I was a fat kid. A book like Starfish was nowhere to be found on library and bookstore shelves when I was in elementary and middle school. So, I wrote it. I didn’t hold anything back. Starfish gives readers a true-to-life glimpse into what it’s like to be a fat kid. At times, it’s brutal. Most readers and reviewers talk about how much they cry when they read it. But the bullying that fat kids endure is brutal. If fat kids – fat people in general – are ever going to be treated well, people need to understand the hatred they endure.

Here are some of the takeaways for kids. I want any fat child to realize they deserve to be treated like a human. Quite frankly, fat people, even fat kids, are treated like things. Monsters.

I want fat kids to stop thinking there’s something wrong with them and to realize there’s something wrong with people who are cruel.

I want fat kids to unashamedly take up their space, their place in the world. I want bullies to see themselves – really see themselves. See how their words and actions devastate others.

And I want parents, teachers, and other adults to see that they have a responsibility to stop bullying when they see it. Most importantly, they need to understand that they themselves can be bullies. They may mean well when they bring up a child’s weight. But the way they go about trying to show concern is, sadly, usually all wrong.

Starfish is opening up doors for me to talk to kids via virtual visits, be on panels for various author events, and write for blogs and publications. I love that. What I also love is that reviewers are recommending that adults read it as much as children. But the best part is when I hear from early readers about how Starfish is changing lives. One reader wrote this on Goodreads:

“My niece, who swears she would never wear short sleeves and hides herself in oversized clothing in order to hide and blend in to the background, asked me if we could go shopping for clothes after reading this book.”

That little girl is starfishing! I cry every time I think of that. It’s exactly what I wanted to happen.

STARFISH will debut on MARCH 9, 2021. You can order your copy on Amazon, or at any independent bookstore.

https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=Starfish

To help celebrate the launch of this important book, Lisa is giving away one of her awesome STARFISH BOOK BAGS. Starfish book bag

To be entered in the random drawing, leave a comment below. If you share this post on social media, let me know and I will enter your name twice.

Lisa Fipps is an award-winning former journalist, current director of marketing for a public library, and an author of middle-grade books. Starfish is her debut novel. Find her at https://authorlisafipps.com/, and as authorlisafipps on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Author Lisa Fipps with white background

Celebrate GIRLS AND WOMEN IN STEM Day With Some Great Books.

Today is  a day to honor and recognize the amazing women engineers, scientists, and mathematicians who achieved success in their fields when women were not encouraged to do so. These pioneers persevered and achieved some remarkable accomplishments in the scientific and mathematical community. They continue to inspire girls and young women today by opening the doors for careers in science and engineering.

Here are three books that highlight some of these remarkable women of STEM.

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Born in China in the early 1900s when girls weren’t routinely educated and women weren’t welcomed in science, Wu Chien Shiung was not a likely candidate to become a world-renowned physicist. But because of her supportive parents and her own determination, she pursued her passion for physics first in her homeland and then in the United States where she received her Ph.D. Fighting both racism and sexism through her career in the U.S., she still managed to do top-notch research, helping several other physicists win Nobel Prizes. She, herself, won the prestigious Wolf Prize, the Israeli equivalent to the Nobel. During her lifetime, she helped many girls go into STEM.

QUEEN OF PHYSICS is written by Teresa Robeson.

Teresa Robeson 何顥思
Winner of APALA Award, co-Regional Advisor: IN-SCBWI

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http://teresarobeson.com

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CODE BREAKER, SPY HUNTER by Laurie Wallmark

Elizebeth Friedman is different than most of the other women in STEM I’ve written about. Unlike them, she didn’t tinker with inventions as a child. She didn’t even especially like math and science. She was more interested in studying English and foreign languages. So how did Elizebeth’s codebreaking skills help change the course of two world wars? Well, it turns out Elizebeth was exceptionally good at recognizing patterns. That, combined with her linguistic ability, gave her an almost superhuman ability to crack codes. 

Laurie Wallmark-300dpi4x6

www.lauriewallmark.com 

book cover

COUNTING ON KATHERINE: HOW KATHERINE JOHNSON SAVED APOLLO 13 by Helaine Becker.

The bold story of Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA during the space race and was depicted in the film Hidden Figures.

You’ve likely heard of the historic Apollo 13 moon landing. But do you know about the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13 returned safely home?

As a child, Katherine Johnson loved to count. She counted the steps on the road, the number of dishes and spoons she washed in the kitchen sink, everything! Boundless, curious, and excited by calculations, young Katherine longed to know as much as she could about math, about the universe.

From Katherine’s early beginnings as a gifted student to her heroic accomplishments as a prominent mathematician at NASA, Counting on Katherine is the story of a groundbreaking American woman who not only calculated the course of moon landings but, in turn, saved lives and made enormous contributions to history.

Helaine Becker  is the author of more than 70 award-winning books for children including You Can Read, Worms for Breakfast: How to Feed a Zoo, Monster Science and Counting on Katherine. She loves science, books and ice cream, but not necessarily in that order.       

Two Winners of Two New Picture Books Are…

Late January and earlier this month I hosted give-aways for two new picture books.

MY MONSTERPIECE

A copy of MY MONSTERPIECE by Amalia Hoffman goes to Roseanne Frank.

A HORN IS BORN

A copy of A HORN IS BORN by Bill Borders goes to Kathleen Wilford.

Please send me you addresses so I can get the books out to you.

Congratulations to Roseanne and Kathleen and thanks to all who entered.