Author/Illustrator Paula Wallace Presents a New PB: Mr. Reginald and the Bunnies + a Chance to Win a Copy.

Today it is my pleasure to interview children’s picture book author/illustrator PAULA WALLACE who just released a new picture titled MR. REGINALD AND THE BUNNIES. Paula tells where the idea for this delightful story came from and how she illustrated it. My review of the story will follow and then you will have an opportunity to enter a drawing to win a copy .

Here’s Paula:

Mr. Reginald and the Bunnies evolved from a series of paintings created after an artist residency at the Heartland Family Service Therapeutic School in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The school was established for children unsuccessful in a conventional school setting and my residency was supported by WhyArts, an arts organization whose service is dedicated to those on the margins, the under-served, and those with disabilities. 

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The kids and the teaching/support staff provided a wealth of opportunity to observe and fully appreciate the challenges and energy and love required to serve children (ages 5-20) who carried so much trouble with them. Of course, I also observed other children in my family or my friends’ or at church – there’s the remarkable universality of movement and curiosity and testing of boundaries. Yet teachers, moms and dads, caregivers of every stripe need a break – and so do children. In Mr. Reginald & the Bunnies we see that everyone is looking for a little respite, a little change. We also see that sometimes all our planning and great expectations can be upended and, as a result, we have to roll with it.
All of the paintings are oil on panel. Because I also do fine art painting for galleries, oil is the tool I know. I can move from one painting to another as they dry enough for me to take them to the next level. Needless to say, there were rabbits everywhere while working on the book. Anna Olswanger, my agent, really put me through the paces to fine tune everything. She could look at work objectively and honestly – something very important to artists and writers who are often too close to their work. Making changes, stretching and pulling the work, even hearing “no,” can be daunting and humbling and deflating. Yet there is a grace in all of that sweat, an appreciation for doing your best to give it your best. After all, the story and the pictures are not something to hoard and hide, they’re meant to be shared, making all the work so much sweeter.
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By the way, I learned that Foreward Reviews named Mr. Reginald & the Bunnies among the finalists in the picture book/early reader category! 
Darlene’s Review: Mr. Reginald the rabbit and his neighbor Mrs. Paddock live in a quiet neighborhood where they pride themselves for the orderly lives they lead. They like everything to be tidy and “just so”. This order is disrupted when Mr. Reginald gets a visit from his three rambunctious nieces and nephews. Get ready for a sweet and delightful romp with an old-fashioned, homey feel reminiscent of Peter Rabbit. The soft, colorful illustrations add whimsy and humor to the playful and energetic antics of the rabbits. Snuggle up and put on your bunny slippers. This has the makings of a favorite read-aloud bedtime story for the youngest readers.
To enter and win a copy of MR. REGINALD AND THE BUNNIES, leave a comment on this post. I will put your name in a hat and one winner will be chosen at random from all who entered. If you share this post on FB or Tweet it, let me know and I will add your name again. The winner will be announced on  this blog on Thursday, April 11, 2019.

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Artist and author, Paula Wallace, has a studio in the Hot Shops Art Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Wallace, a graduate of the University of Iowa, recalls a professor saying “the artist’s job is to pay attention.” Her art and stories are informed by her work with children and other under-served communities, as well as the urban and rural landscapes in which we dwell.

Wallace has illustrated for other authors, as well as writing and illustrating her own books, including Choose Your Days (Cinco Puntos Press) and Mr. Reginald and the Bunnies (Pomegranate.) In 2018, Choose Your Days represented Nebraska at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. Her work as a fine artist includes many gallery exhibits in the United States and Italy. Her work is held in private collections throughout the United States and internationally.

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Become a Naturalist

Ah Spring! There is so much about this time of year that brings out poetry, curiosity and a sense that anything is possible. When the kids get restless and itchy, take a break from video games and household routines and explore the natural world. To make it a more interesting adventure, become Naturalists and record the days observations and sightings. All you need is the following, all of which will fit in a backpack:

1. A pair of binoculars for zooming in on birds or other elusive wildlife. A magnifying glass for closeups of insects and plant life.

2. A Field Guide of insects and birds of North America.  There are many excellent ones you can borrow from a local library or download onto your Kindle or iphone.

3. A journal or notebook will help you record sights, sounds, names of animals and plants you discover, and details to use in writing a story or drawing a picture when you get back home.

4. A camera.

5. Comfortable shoes, water, snacks.

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Try an outing at different times of day. What is awake in the early morning hours may be totally different from what is active mid day or at sunset. If you’re having difficulty finding “critters”, be still and listen to the sounds of nature. This stillness often leads to amazing discoveries. It will definitely bring you peace and calm your stress. If you’re near water, turn over some rocks at the water’s edge. There are many hatching insects under them to marvel at.

And, like every good naturalist, remember to leave only footprints, and take only pictures and memories, and bring back any trash left behind by the human animal, so we can enjoy the natural world for years to come.

Book Giveaway: MILKWEED by Jerry Spinelli

I don’t know how I missed this wonderful bit of historical fiction for kids, but here is an opportunity to win a copy of MILKWEED by Jerry Spinelli.

Writing and Illustrating

Even though this stunning novel of the Holocaust from Newbery Medalist, Jerry Spinelli was published in 2003, it is a story that children should read and adults should never forget. I had this book on my nightstand for a few years before I read it. I was afraid the story would drag my spirit down. All I had to do is read the first page and I knew Jerry would not do that to his readers. It is beautifully written and a heartwarming story. If you are a writer, you can learn a lot about sentence structure and character development while reading this book.

Producer Gail Rosenblum is working on making an animated film of Milkweed. Here is the link to a video talking about working on making the movie. If the end result of what they are doing with animating Milkweed is as good as this video it should…

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Katia Raina, Debut YA Author Presents CASTLE OF CONCRETE.

Today it is my pleasure to feature my friend and debut YA author KATIA RAINA, with a sneak peek at her new book, CASTLE OF CONCRETE. Here’s Katya:

CASTLE OF CONCRETE is a young adult novel set in the last year of Communist Russia, about a shy Jewish girl Sonya who reunites with her once-dissident mother after a long absence and falls in love with a boy who may be an anti-Semite.

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Where I got the idea for the story:

You’d think it’s such a straightforward question, right? But the path to this story idea, for me, was meandering.

The short answer is: the idea for this story came straight from my soul and the core of who I was. I grew up in Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Russia, I grew up quiet, an outsider and a Jew-in-hiding (I didn’t have what the Russians would consider a typically Jewish look). I was missing my mama and having a hard time connecting with the society in which I lived. I read lots of fairy tales and science fiction, and lots of romance. Then, when I got older and thought I was in love, I went out on a date with a boy, who used an anti-Semitic slur against a stranger. I didn’t know if he knew that I was Jewish or not. I never said anything. I never found out. But the “what if” questions never quite left me alone. Merging with memory and imagination, eventually these questions led me to write CASTLE OF CONCRETE.

Three things you should know about the main character Sonya:

  1. Sonya thinks she is a shy and quiet mouse, a myshka. She has no idea how fierce and crazy she can be!
  2. Sonya used to be a good student. Back when she wasn’t as focused on boys. Ahem.
  3. Sonya’s talents are ice skating, piano playing and singing. She is not necessarily champion/super star material in any of these areas. But when she lets go, when she is feeling the magic and trusting herself, she definitely has her shining moments, in all three.

The book is coming out on June 11, but I have been already beyond thrilled at the excitement and early reception. Here is the link to pre-order the early copy! 🙂 

https://www.amazon.com/Castle-Concrete-NOVEL-Katia-Rainia/dp/0999541633/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=34D5AELYWG0DP&keywords=katia+raina&qid=1550768775&s=gateway&sprefix=katia+%2Caps%2C169&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

Katia Raina photo, cropped

Follow Katia’s blog, The Magic Mirror, for updates!

Twitter: KatiaRaina1

Instagram: katiawrites

Facebook: katia.raina

When she was a child, Katia Raina played at construction sites and believed in magic mirrors. She emigrated from Russia at the age of almost sixteen. A former journalist and currently a middle school English teacher in Washington, D.C., she has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives with her family just outside of D.C., and still believes in magic.

Almost Spring Banana Muffins.

After the dog days of winter, I am anxious to get outside and participate in the rebirth that is SPRING. Despite the calendar saying it is officially spring on 3-21, we all know it usually comes of its own accord. There are signs already, here in NJ.

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But, we all know March is a month where anything can happen. So, while you and your kids await the days when we can go outside with just a jacket on, why not gather them together for an easy baking session? Instead of throwing out those over-ripe bananas, make up a batch of BANANA MUFFINS or BANANA BREAD.Just mash three bananas with a fork as shown below:

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The follow my well-worn and foolproof recipe. I used chopped walnuts, but you can try almonds also. You can even throw in some mini chocolate morsels.

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The recipe makes 2 loaves or 18 muffins. Serve them up with your favorite beverage and the wait for spring will be a delicious one.

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PB Author Katey Howes Presents: BE A MAKER, a New Picture Book.

I’m so pleased to be back here on Darlene’s blog to talk a bit about my new book, BE A MAKER, and to share a fun craft that pairs well with the book.

BE A MAKER is a picture book about all the things a child can make in a day – like a tower, a mess, a friend, and a difference.  It’s published by Carolrhoda, an imprint of Lerner books, and is illustrated by Elizabet Vuković.

Right now, the Maker movement and Makerspaces get a lot of buzz. And that’s a great thing – I love that we are encouraging kids and adults to tinker, explore and build. But sometimes, I think people get the (mistaken) idea that being a “maker” means you have to be good at coding, or robotics, or welding a gigantic fire-breathing mechanical dragon from spare parts. Now, that’s some awesome making, for sure, but I want kids to understand that there are countless ways to create and that it’s not size or complexity  – or even electricity – that makes your creation valuable. What matters is that you feel proud of what you made. BE A MAKER was born of that idea.

BE A MAKER is told in 2nd person and contains 2 questions that I hope will lead the readers – young and old – to reflection and discussion. It opens with:

Ask yourself this question in the morning when you wake: In a world of possibilities, today, what will you make?

and later closes with: Ask yourself this question as the sun begins to fade:

In a day of making choices, are you proud of what you made?

Be A Maker by Katey Howes, copyright 2019

In between, readers follow the main character as she makes music, plans, a snack, a friend, and a pledge to make her neighborhood a better place.

Before I read the book to a class of kids, I ask “How many of you think of yourselves as makers?” Results vary, but it is never unanimous.

After reading BE A MAKER to a class, I ask the same question.

And every hand goes up.

When I then ask them what they are proud of making, the answers come fast and furious.  I make cake! Legos! Songs! Stories! I make people smile! I make my mom laugh! I make boats. I make pompoms.

 There’s no hesitation and no judgement. Each thing made is valued – not weighed or compared. The kids feel proud of themselves and eager to try making new things.

With this in mind, I created a simple craft that can be adapted for an individual or a whole classroom. I call it the Maker Mobile.

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You’ll need:

-A dowel, stick, embroidery hoop, clothes hanger or other item to use as the base.

-string -card stock -scissors -glue

  1. Cut card stock into matching shapes. For this example, I made 2×2 squares and then cut each on the diagonal to make triangles.
  2. Have kids think of something they like to make. Count the number of letters in that word. They will need twice that number of cardstock shapes.
  3. Write each letter of the word on 2 matching shapes.
  4. Line up one set of shapes spelling out the word, vertically (spelled top to bottom.) Like this:

 

F

R

I

E

N

D

S

 

  1. Flip the shapes over. Glue the string to the backs of those shapes.
  2. Glue the other copy of the word on top of the string, facing up.
  3. When the glue is dry, hang the string from your dowel or other base.
  4. Repeat with other words on different lengths of string until you like the look and balance of your mobile.
  5. Glue or tape a long strip of cardstock with the words “MAKERS MAKE…” to your dowel.
  6. Tie string to the ends of your dowel and hang!

Variations:

For large groups, consider making a bigger mobile with a hula hoop as the base and one string from each student.

  • Challenge kids to think of two words with an equal number of letters to put on opposite sides of the string.
  • For less cutting and gluing, purchase adhesive-backed foam shapes to use in place of cardstock.
  • For more variety, encourage kids to make their strings from any materials available in your maker space/craft area.

 

Katey Howes Headshot

Katey Howes is thrilled to be making books for children. She also makes bad jokes, great apple crisp, and messy mistakes. Katey lives in Upper Makefield, Pennsylvania (really!) with her husband and three adventurous daughters makers. Katey is the author of picture books Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe and Grandmother Thorn. In addition to her own blog about raising readers, Katey contributes to websites including All the Wonders, The Nerdy Bookclub, STEAM Powered Family and Imagination Soup. Katey is a member of SCBWI and is very active in the kidlit community. Find her online at kateyhowes.com, on Twitter @kateywrites, and on Instagram @kidlitlove.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Janet Smart Presents her Middle Grade Historical Novel DUCK AND COVER.

Today I am pleased to present the fourth installment in my historical research series with this entry by middle grade author Janet Smart who discusses the research she did for her debut novel DUCK AND COVER. Here’s Janet:

Historical fiction books take readers back in time. They take you back hundreds and thousands of years or as little as fifty. My MG book, Duck and Cover, transports readers back to the fall of 1962. Many baby boomers remember where they were during the Cuban Missile Crisis and remember the early years of our space race to the moon with the Russians. But many young people today don’t not know much about that time period. I searched and not many books are written about that frightful time in 1962.

For many years I had this vague memory from when I was very young. We were visiting my aunt’s house and people were crying and saying the world was coming to an end. I finally realized what the memory was about – the Cuban Missile Crisis, and I decided to write a book about it.

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Aside from the memories told to me by relatives, I did a lot of research. I mention in my book about the pamphlet the main character, Teddy, found in their cellar titled, in time of EMERGENCY a citizen’s handbook on NUCLEAR ATTACK and NATURAL DISASTERS. I have that booklet. I looked up the timeline of October in 1962 during which most of my book takes place. I looked up 1962 calendars to make sure I got all the days right and researched the speeches President Kennedy gave.

In addition to the historical facts, I also researched food, songs, clothing, and other cultural trends of that time period. The book isn’t all serious; the characters are like all kids and enjoyed Halloween after the threat was over and listened to the song Monster Mash on their transistor radios. They ate tuna casserole with crushed potato chips on top, which was popular in the 60s, and they eavesdropped in on people’s conversations on the telephone party line, something that kids today know nothing about.

The main character’s best friend, Melvin, had polio when he was a toddler. It left him with a limp. During the early 1950s, when he was born, polio was widespread in the country.

Historical fiction books need to get the facts right and at the same time make the story interesting, and not boring, for the reader. If you can do that, you have succeeded.

History books tell you when and where the Cuban Missile Crisis happened. My historical fiction reveals how kids felt when they ducked under their desks during a duck and cover drill, how they felt when they went to bed after listening to President Kennedy’s speech, and their fear when they saw a shooting star and wondered if it was what a Russian missile would look like soaring through the sky.

You can check out the trailer for Duck and Cover on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bJTus-T5Vk&t=36s

https://www.amazon.com/Janet-F-Smart/e/B00LX7ERE4/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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Janet Smart lives just down the road from the small town of Ripley, WV. She is the mother of three grown boys and loves writing for children. She wrote a children’s column in the regional magazine, Two Lane Livin’ for 8 years and is the author of Fun Through the Seasons: Recipes, Crafts and Fun Facts for Kids, and the historical fiction Duck and Cover (Saguaro Books). She also has written a cookbook titled, Cooking with Family: Recipes and Remembrances. You can visit her website at Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch or connect with her on Facebook, @JanetFSmart on Twitter, or on Pinterest.

http://creativewritingintheblackberrypatch.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/wvsmarties

https://www.pinterest.com/wvjan54/

Buy Fun Through the Seasons on Amazon
Click here to buy Duck and Cover on Amazon