PB Author Nancy Churnin Returns to Talk About FOR SPACIOUS SKIES + a Give-away.

As promised, non=fiction PB author NANCY CHURNIN is back. Last week I featured her new book BEAUTIFUL SHADES OF BROWN: THE ART OF LAURA WHEELER WARING. Today Nancy is here to discuss another new book titled FOR SPACIOUS SKIES (Albert Whitman and Company)  Here’s Nancy:

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How did you discover Katharine?

Curiosity! After researching Irving Berlin who wrote “God Bless America” for Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing (Creston),  I wanted to learn more about composers of America’s other great patriotic anthems. Most people know about Francis Scott Key and “The Star-Spangled Banner” — and there have been a lot of books about how that song came to be — but what about “America the Beautiful”? I was startled to see it had been written by a woman, Katharine Lee Bates, whom I knew very little about. I set out to find everything I could about her and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know. 

What was the most surprising thing that happened during your research for the story?

There were so many wonderful details — too many to include in the book! One favorite is how she was given dolls to encourage her to sew as other girls her age did. But she hated sewing so much, she would just plaster them with wet leaves. The other is how she popularized the idea of Mrs. Santa Claus with another poem she wrote. I tried so hard to shoehorn that in. At some point, I am going to have write a separate book about that!

What are 3 things readers should know about Katharine?

She stood up for herself. She wanted an education at a time when women weren’t expected to get an education, she studied hard and she got it. She was in the second graduating class at Wellesley and continued her education, returning to Wellesley as a professor and later chair of the English department

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She stood up for others. She took care of her mother and sister who lived with her. She help organize a settlement for women in need. She spoke up for those in need: she wrote a well-received novel about the poor, Rose and Thorn. She advocated for peace and was an early supporter of League of Nations, the precursor to what would later become the United Nations. She loved to teach and encourage her students and she mentored and championed other writers, including the young Robert Frost! She fought for a woman’s right to vote and lived to cast her ballot. 

She loved nature and life, she was kind and had a great sense of humor. She gave “America the Beautiful” to America as a gift; she never charged a penny for its use. She loved writing stories for children, she would hand-write copies of “America the Beautiful” for fans that requested it and she enjoyed having her picture taken with her collie, Hamlet, and her parrot, Polonius.

This is the second book you’ve written about an American song writer (Irving Berlin). What drew you to the subject matter?

People have very different ideas about what patriotism is — what it means to love your country. In writing about Irving Berlin, it was important for me to show how grateful this immigrant was for finding a home in America, how much he and so many immigrants have given back to this country and also how being an immigrant was a gift in and of itself. Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing shows how he took the melodies he brought with him and mixed it with the sounds of his new country to create a new sound that was irresistible and gave Americans hope and courage when they needed it most. Katharine Lee Bates’ family had deep roots in America, but as a woman, she had to stand up and fight for so many things — her right for an education, for independence, even to vote. She saw America as beautiful, yes, but with the caveat that we have a role to play in that beauty. She wrote that poem to help a nation divided by the Civil War to heal. When she writes “crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea,” she is asking us to remember we are all one American family and we need to help and support each other.

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What do you want readers to take away from the story?

I hope Katharine’s story and her poem will inspire children to see our country as one family and focus on all that we have in common. I hope it will get children thinking not only about the the spacious skies, the amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties that make our country beautiful, but what WE need to do to make our country beautiful — promote brotherhood and, as they add at Wellesley college, sisterhood! That’s why I’ve created a project to go with the book, FOR SPACIOUS LINES, where I’m asking kids to share what they are doing or what we can and should be doing to make our country more beautiful. You’ll find it on my website, along with a free teacher guide and resources at nancychurnin.com.

Here is Darlene’s review for this wonderful book:

FOR SPACIOUS SKIES by Nancy Churnin

Katharine Lee Bates was a pioneer, doing things women were told they couldn’t do. Speaking her mind, sharing her thoughts and ideas about inequality, injustice, oppression. After a train trip across the country in 1893, she was moved and inspired by the beauty and wonder the country had to offer. Beauty and wonder that was available to everyone. She wrote a poem expressing her feelings.

That poem became a national song of unity and pride. AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL.

Thoughtfully told, and beautifully illustrated, this story is a perfect celebration of what unites us and makes a perfect addition to any classroom non-fiction history collection.

Nancy has agreed to give away one signed copy of her book. To enter, please leave a comment telling us your favorite patriotic song. I will enter each name into a hat. If you share this post on social media, let me know and you will have a second chance to win. One name will be drawn from those entered and announced next month on this blog.

 

thumbnail ANancy Churnin is the award-winning author of eight picture book biographies on multiple state reading lists with a ninth due in 2021. Beautiful Shades of Brown, The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring is A Mighty Girl pick selected for the 2020 Ruby Bridges Reading Festival at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. The William Hoy Story, a Bank Street Book Awards selection, has been a Texas 2X2 pick and Armadillo Readers Choice selection, on Illinois’ Monarch Award master list, the Louisiana Young Readers Choice Award and Connecticut’s Charter Oak Book Award list. Manjhi Moves a Mountain is the winner of the 2018 South Asia Book Award, a Junior Library Guild selection, an Anne Izard Storytellers Choice Award and Silver Eureka honoree. Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank is on the 2020 Notable Book for a Global Society list from the International Literacy Association, the Wisconsin Picture This list, the Brave Book list and was featured at the Ruby Bridges Reading Festival in Memphis and the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing is a 2019 Sydney Taylor and National Council for the Social Studies Notable. Nancy is a founding member of the Nonfiction Ninjas and the NF Chicks. She graduated cum laude from Harvard, has a master’s from Columbia, and lives in Plano, Texas, with her husband, their dog named Dog, and two cantankerous cats. You can find Nancy Churnin on social media.

On her website: nancychurnin.com

On Facebook: Nancy Churnin Children’s Books

 

 

 

#BIKEMONTH: Get Out and Ride

You may or may not know that MAY is #BikeMonth. What is a more iconic sign of spring heading into summer than taking a bike ride? During a recent post on this blog featuring the wonderful PB by Teresa Robeson TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING, I asked readers the question about their favorite memory from childhood involving a bike.

Mine involves the one and only bicycle I had as a kid – a turquoise Columbia bike with a white and turquoise vinyl seat, and wire basket in the front for carrying whatever treasures I deemed necessary for a ride. I got the bike for my twelfth birthday. Up until that time, after graduating from a tricycle at 5 or 6, I was bikeless. So, it wasn’t until the ripe old age of twelve, that I learned to ride a two-wheeler.  That’s not something you’re likely to forget. Didn’t take long to master it, and once I did, there was no going back. I loved that bike and rode it everywhere.

I only have one faded black and white photo of the bike. But here is what it looked like…at least this is what I remember it looked like from this internet photo. Pretty sweet, huh?

See the source imageSo now that we are getting back out into the world again post-virus, how about sharing some of your favorite childhood bike adventures?

Here is a share of sorts: the main character from my new MG WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY discovers his Dad’s old bike while he is visiting his grandparents house. Do these next few poems bring back any memories of your childhood biking days?

BIKE

I find a bike, a red Schwinn,
covered in cobwebs in Pops’ shed.
One flat tire and the chain needs oil.
A polish with some of Pops’ car wax
brings back the shine.

A Joe DiMaggio baseball card is clothespinned
to a spoke on the back wheel, like my bike
at home, with a picture of
Mickey Mantle in the same place.

Can I ride it, Pops?
You bet, he says.
Your dad rode that bike everyday until
he got a car.
Pops chuckles when he tells me
the bike has a name.
Flash

Todd rode like a Flash all over town.
I stare at Pops. He can’t see me
because he’s remembering,
watching Todd,
Dad,
ride Flash.

RIDE

I take Flash for a ride,
gliding through the air like
a warm knife glides
through butter. The seat
feels like my butt has been there before.

I pedal until my legs
are
on
fire.
Going everywhere
nowhere
anywhere
but here.

What would happen if I rode forever?
Would I stop thinking about Dad?
Would I stop missing our house
and the fort Dad helped me build
in the backyard?

If I rode backwards
Could I go back in time
to when everything was
boring
dumb
ordinary?
Why did I complain
when things were so good?
 
Why do I only miss something
once it’s gone?

GIRL

I streak past a bike on the side of the road,
pink and purple streamers on
the handlebars. Where’s
the girl who rides?

I stop, look around a field
filled with wildflowers.
In the middle, a girl as wild as a bird
spins
dances
jumps
through the tangle of blooms,
a fistful in one hand. She
stops
waves
shouts hello
as she runs up to me.

My name is Jill.
Jack, I say.
She giggles as she sings
that old rhyme that has our names.

When she’s done singing, she
smiles and says, Don’t
expect me to
tumble
crumble
or fumble.
I’m
not that kind of
girl.

What kind of boy or girl were you when you rode your childhood bike?

Happy #BIKEMONTH.

Nancy Churnin Presents: BEAUTIFUL SHADES OF BROWN: THE ART OF LAURA WHEELER WARING + a give-away

Today it is my distinct pleasure to feature one of my favorite non-fiction picture book authors, NANCY CHURNIN, who is here to talk about her recently released book BEAUTIFUL SHADES OF BROWN: THE ART OF LAURA WHEELER WARING. (Creston Books) Here is the interview:

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How did you discover the art of Laura Wheeler Waring?

I am always looking for heroes and heroines that have been overlooked, that kids — and often adults — don’t know enough about. I love fine art and I was thinking about how we mostly hear about male painters with just a handful of female painters, such as Mary Cassatt and Frida Kahlo, getting multiple books from different angles. Surely there were more female painters! I started researching paintings by female artists. I found a painting of Marian Anderson (reproduced in the book) and I stopped. Magnificent! I had to know more about the woman who painted her. It was hard to find information. Nobody had written a book about Laura Wheeler Waring. But the more I found out, the more I wanted to find out. Her parents, Amos Noe Freeman, a Presbyterian minister, and Christiana Williams Freeman, were activists in the African American community, standing up against slavery, helping in the Underground Railroad. Laura shared their passion for equality, but she spoke through her paintbrush. She wanted representation of African Americans on museum walls. But even more than that, she wanted people to see the beauty, the dignity, the accomplishments of people in her community. When she got the opportunity to paint Marian Anderson, that gave her the opportunity to break down walls with her brush the way Marian did with her voice. It’s a reminder that we can all break down walls using our own unique gifts.

The story is told in such a beautiful, poetic way. Was this how you envisioned telling the story from the beginning?

I was struck by her passion for showing the beauty of brown skin, but even beyond that how she would set her subjects in settings with brown walls, desks, clothing. Was she trying to make a point by showing the variations in this color? I became increasingly convinced she did. In a segregated world, where white people made generalizations about African Americans, the individuality of each shade of brown she used made a statement about each person’s individuality. I studied the color brown to try to figure out how she created all those variations of hue and it all began to make sense once I realized how many colors mix to make brown. Usually, when we think of something being colorful, we compare it to a rainbow. But it struck me that there was a rainbow in the color brown. That’s when I had the epiphany that brown is a rainbow, “with orange and blue, red and green tucked inside, playing hide and seek.” And I was off and running.

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What were the challenges in telling Laura Wheeler Waring’s story?

The biggest challenge was finding information about Laura Wheeler Waring. I went to curators at the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Erin Beasley, Digital Image Rights and reproduction Specialist; Dr. Tuliza Fleming, Curator of AmericanArt at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Riche Sorensen, Rights & Reproduction Coordinator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, were a tremendous help. Erin Beasley put me in touch with Laura Wheeler Waring’s great-niece and heir, Madeline Murphy Rabb, who not only gave me permission to reproduced Waring’s paintings at the Smithsonian Institution, she answered questions about her life I couldn’t find answers to elsewhere. She also affirmed how proud her great-aunt was of her skills at blending colors, which went to the heart of my book. Still, even with all that support, I could never have pulled this off without the brilliance of illustrator Felicia Marshall, who channelled Waring’s style, seamlessly incorporating Waring painting her actual portraits in the spreads, with incredible detail and attention to shades of brown. I am so grateful to my editor Marissa Moss, who believed in this story from the start, guided me as only Marissa Moss can, and knew that Felicia Marshall was the artist who could do justice to Waring.

 

Your books seem to champion creative, and sometimes unsung heroes. Why are you particularly drawn to these kinds of people?

It all began with the journey of my first book, THE WILLIAM HOY STORY. I was a full-time staff writer with The Dallas Morning News when I got to know Steve Sandy, a Deaf man who shared his dream that more people would know the story of the great Deaf baseball player, William Hoy, who taught umpires signs so he could play the game he loved — signs we still use today — and that someday Hoy would be honored in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I wrote that book, with the help of Steve’s research, guidance and friendship with the Hoy family, with the goal of sharing Hoy’s story with kids. I created a project, Hoy for the Hall, that encouraged kids to write letters to the National Baseball Hall of Fame asking for Hoy to be inducted. They’ve sent thousands! Here’s the sweet surprise. I wrote that first book to make Steve’s dream come true, but I found that I was also making an old dream of mine come true — a longtime dream of creating books and sharing them with kids. It felt so good to share the story of this hero that the kids didn’t know about, to break down walls between the Deaf and the hearing, to inspire kids to persevere and find ways to make the world better. I immediately started to look for and think about other people whose stories hadn’t been told, who had persevered against great odds to make their dreams come true and whose dreams, realized, made the world a better place. My next book was MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN, the first picture book about Dashrath Manjhi, who spent 22 years chiseling a path through a 300-foot mountain so kids in his poor village could get to school on the other side. Those have been the kind of heroes I’ve looked for straight through to Laura Wheeler Waring and beyond. 

What would you like readers to remember about this story?

I would like them to remember that each and every one of us is beautiful, unique and a complex mix of many characteristics as surprising and wonderful as the varied pigments that make up our skin. I would like them to remember that representation is important and to make sure that you and your community can be seen and appreciated. I would like them to remember that when you have a dream to do something that’s never been done before, you may hit a lot of obstacles, you may hear that what hasn’t been done can’t be done, but if you persevere you will get there, maybe not in a day or a week or a month, but you will get there. I would like them to remember that that you don’t fail unless you give up. Every rejection, every setback is just another step on the journey to achieving your goal.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I hope folks will check out the free teacher guides, readers theater, resources and projects on my website, nancychurnin.com. The project for Beautiful Shades of Brown is PAINT YOUR WORLD. With the permission of parents and educators, kids are invited to sent photos of their artwork of themselves, their families and their communities with a short caption describing who they’re portraying. I will post those pictures on the PAINT YOUR WORLD page so we can celebrate how beautiful everyone is.

Nancy has agreed to give away one signed copy of her book to one randomly chosen person who leaves a comment on this post. Winner will be drawn from all those entered. If you share the post on social media, let me know and I will give you a second chance to win.

Here is my review for this amazing book:

“This book is like a painting whose rich, bold, and lyrical text conveys the depth of feeling and care Laura put into each of her portraits. I love how Churnin conveyed the idea of a “rainbow of shades of brown” that Laura spent hours on, mixing blues, greens, reds, and yellows to get just the right and perfect shade. I love how Laura felt and heard the color whenever she began to paint. This is a stunning book that reminds us of the beautiful variety found in just one color, and how important it is for each of us to see ourselves reflected in the art we choose to celebrate.”

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Nancy Churnin is the award-winning author of eight picture book biographies on multiple state reading lists with a ninth due in 2021. Beautiful Shades of Brown, The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring is A Mighty Girl pick selected for the 2020 Ruby Bridges Reading Festival at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. The William Hoy Story, a Bank Street Book Awards selection, has been a Texas 2X2 pick and Armadillo Readers Choice selection, on Illinois’ Monarch Award master list, the Louisiana Young Readers Choice Award and Connecticut’s Charter Oak Book Award list. Manjhi Moves a Mountain is the winner of the 2018 South Asia Book Award, a Junior Library Guild selection, an Anne Izard Storytellers Choice Award and Silver Eureka honoree. Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank is on the 2020 Notable Book for a Global Society list from the International Literacy Association, the Wisconsin Picture This list, the Brave Book list and was featured at the Ruby Bridges Reading Festival in Memphis and the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing is a 2019 Sydney Taylor and National Council for the Social Studies Notable. Nancy is a founding member of the Nonfiction Ninjas and the NF Chicks. She graduated cum laude from Harvard, has a master’s from Columbia, and lives in Plano, Texas, with her husband, their dog named Dog, and two cantankerous cats.

You can find Nancy Churnin on social media.

On her website: nancychurnin.com

On Facebook: Nancy Churnin Children’s Books

On Twitter: @nchurnin

On Instagram: @nchurnin

 

 

Winners to the Book Give-aways…

Last month I held two give-aways for recently launched books. Today I am happy to announce the winners:

Janet Smart wins a signed copy of RENN LAKE by Michele Weber Hurwitz.

Wendy Greenley wins a copy of TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING by Teresa Robeson.

Congratulations to the winners! And many thanks to all who participated in the give-away.bicycles in beijing cover

Hello From Renn Lake cover

Nancy Viau Presents:Virtual Beach Activities Because TODAY IS (or Could Be) A BEACH DAY + Chance to Win A Copy!

Today it is my pleasure to feature a great new PB by fellow author friend NANCY VIAU: TODAY IS A BEACH DAY (Albert Whitman & Company, Illustrated by Charlie Adler). Here’s Nancy:

 

Sunny days are for the beach. Pretty pails. There’s one for each.

Who will spy the sea and cheer?

ZIP! ZOOM! STOP!

Hey, we’re here!

TODAY IS A BEACH DAY!

Wait…What? It’s NOT a beach day?

SIGH. Oh, right, the Coronavirus—the scary, horrible disease that is keeping everyone at home. We’ll have to make do with a virtual beach day!

Beach Day cover jpeg

First, read TODAY IS A BEACH DAY! by Nancy Viau, illustrated by Charlie Alder. The book can be ordered via your favorite independent bookseller, Amazon, or any number of places.   https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780807593967

You can also leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Tell us your favorite beach activity and I’ll enter your name in the random drawing. Share this post on social media for a second chance to win.

Next, use your imagination and dream of a warm and sunny beach as you try the following activities.

SCAVENGER HUNT

Get together with your family and race to find the items below. They do not have to be beach-themed. Perhaps it’s something in your garden, garage, bathroom, or closet. Be creative. Take SAND, for example. What could substitute for SAND?

READY, GO!

Sand

Sea

Beach Towel

Pail or Bucket

Shovel

Sunscreen

Umbrella

Beach Ball

Bathing Suit

Flip Flops or Sandals

Snap a photo of the winner and/or the items. Post it in the comments.

 

ACTIVITY 2: MAKERSPACE

Can you build a sandcastle without sand? Try using shoeboxes, toys, blocks, Legos, soup cans, cereal boxes, or books!

Snap a photo of your castle. Post it in the comments.

Beach3

ACTIVITY 3: OCEAN IN A BOTTLE

This science activity is explained in a Teacher Guide produced by Deb Gonzales. It’s FREE to download from Nancy Viau’s website, so give it a try!  https://www.nancyviau.com/teacher-guides/

See you on the beach!

 

Darlene’s Review for TODAY IS A BEACH DAY:

“Come along for a trip to the beach in this lively, sensory story written in alliterative rhyme. Little ones will experience the sights, sounds, textures, tastes, and feelings a day of sand, sun, and surf have to offer. A perfect read-aloud for the youngest beach lovers.”

Nancy Viau

 

Nancy Viau is the award-winning author of Today Is a Beach Day!, First Snow (2019 IPPY/Independent Publisher Book Award Winner), City Street Beat, Storm Song, Look What I Can Do! and Pruett and Soo (forthcoming). Her middle-grade novels include Beauty and Bernice (2018 Foreword INDIES finalist), Just One Thing! (2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Gold Award Winner), Samantha Hansen Has Rocks In Her Head, and Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen. A former teacher and kid-at-heart, she loves to visit schools to share her journey to publication and the writing process. Find her on Twitter or Instagram: @NancyViau1 or her website: www.NancyViau.com.

 

I Wish…I Imagine…Craft For Mother’s Day in the Time of Coronavirus.

While we are sheltering in place and social distancing, it doesn’t mean we can’t do something special to honor our moms, grandmas, step-moms, and the other women in our lives who love us and take such good care of us. 

This simple craft comes from my new book: WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY  (Creston).

WoCCover0111 year-old Jack, his 5 year-old sister Katy, and their mom Lily are spending summer with their grandparents as they wait and hope to hear word about Jack’s dad who is MIA in Vietnam. To help get through the worry and anxiety of not knowing his whereabouts, Lily tells them to “hold onto hope”.

When we hold onto hope, we can imagine better times and imagine how we hope things will be when those better times return.

At the end of their summer together, JACK, KATY, JILL, and CODY decide to make a hand wreath to symbolize their wishes, hopes, imaginings, for when they meet again a whole year away. Here is that poem from the book:

HAND
It’s Jill’s idea to trace everyone’s hand,
both hands actually, so we can make two circles
with hands joined together, fingers
touching wrists,
so it looks like a paper wreath.

Hands of friendship, Jill says, forever linked.
And holding on to hope, I say, thinking of Dad.
We trace the grown-ups hands, too,
all of us linked together
in a circle that doesn’t end, like the silly song.

Jill and Cody keep one circle
and I give the other to Gran and Pops.
We have to make another one, Katy says.
I want a hand wreath so I can always remember
my summer of wishes and how all of them
came true.

Eyes wide, Katy says, Let’s write a wish
on each one so
next year we can see if they
come true without Fred.

Kid genius, Cody says, smiling at Katy.
I think we should keep them
secret, I say as we write down our
hopes and dreams on this third wreath.

We cover the back of each hand with
a paper door,
to be opened like a time capsule
next time we meet. We trade this new one,
the one with our
hopes and dreams,
for the one we gave Gran and Pops,
so we aren’t tempted to take a peek.

wish hands

You and your kids can do this, writing I WISH…I IMAGINE…I DREAM…on one side of each hand, and then what each hope, wish, or dream might be when we are over this pandemic and things are back to normal, on the reverse. Write down the things you’d want to do with your MOM or GRANDMA when you can be together again. Hang it up, or tuck it away and bring it out when we are free of self-isolation and see how many of your hopes, dreams, and imaginings came true.

Stay Safe, hold onto hope, and have a Happy Mother’s Day.

#BOOKWEEK2020atHOME: Make a Book To Keep or Share.

There are many ways to help your kids make simple books to record their poems, sketches, stories, and doodles. Here is a simple one that requires only a sheet of paper or card stock and a scissor.

1

Take a standard sheet of paper. Fold in half LENGTHWISE.   2

OPEN. Fold in half WIDTHWISE. Bring each side up to the MIDDLE so you now have EIGHT RECTANGULAR sections.    3

Holding the paper so the LONGEST PART of the rectangles are top to bottom, use scissors to cut a slit through the TWO MIDDLE SECTIONS as shown in the photo above.

FLIP the book upright so it stands as shown in the photo below, with the creased side facing UP and open edge facing DOWN.

4

Bring the open edges toward the middle:

6That’s It! You’ve made a small book to use for whatever you like. You can decorate the cover, and use them to send special messages, wishes, hopes, dreams, or whatever catches your fancy.

HINT: If you staple TWO BOOKS  – one inside the other – you will have more pages to use for your story.  HAPPY BOOK MAKING!

For more ideas of how to make simple books, visit: https://www.homeschooling-ideas.com/making-books-with-children.html

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Author Theanne Griffith Presents: Boom! Snap! Whiz! Zap! Getting Kids Excited About Science Through Reading.

Today it is my pleasure to feature fellow children’s book author THEANNE GRIFFITH who is here to talk about her exciting and kid-friendly series of science-themed books called THE MAGNIFICENT MAKERS. The first three books in the series are debuting this year.

The Magnificent Makers #1: How to Test a Friendship and The Magnificent Makers #2: Brain Trouble, May 19th, 2020.

makers 1

 

makers 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magnificent Makers #3: Riding Sound Waves, September 8th, 2020. 

MM#3 Cover 11320

What led you to the field of writing science-themed books?

I’ve always had two passions: science and storytelling. I’ve spent the majority of my life pursuing my passion for science. I graduated from Smith College in 2008 with a dual degree in Neuroscience and Spanish. I then went on to get my PhD in Neuroscience at Northwestern University. But it was in 2017, during my time working as a postdoctoral scientist at Columbia University that I decided to officially pursue my passion for storytelling as a children’s book author. I’ve always been an avid reader and loved writing. I’m also a staunch advocate for science education and increasing accessibility to science for young learners. Needless to say, it was a natural progression for me to finally combine my two passions by writing science-themed books for kids, like The Magnificent Makers.


Were you a science kid in school? 

 Definitely! Science has always intrigued me. And I always had a knack for it. I loved playing outside and investigating the world around me, whether it be watching tadpoles and crayfish swim in a creek or collecting bugs in jars. I was a naturally curious kid (and I’m still a naturally curious adult!) and science was a way for me to turn my curiosities into testable questions.

What three things do you want readers to know about the books?

The first thing I want readers to know about The Magnificent Makers is that they should get ready for out-of-these world adventures. Literally! Each book follows best friends Pablo and Violet as they make their way through an alternate reality makerspace called the Maker Maze. Every time they visit the maze, they complete a science challenge that is made up of three different levels. And the eccentric maze scientist, Dr. Crisp, guides them on their journey. It’s a lot of fun…but there’s a catch. They need to complete the challenge in one hundred twenty Maker Minutes. If they don’t, they won’t be able to come back for more fun science adventures. Needless to say, it’s always a race against time! Second, they should get ready to learn some cool science! Each book covers a different science topic and is filled with fun and entertaining facts. Finally, readers should know that the fun doesn’t stop when the book is over. Each book includes instructions for two “do it yourself” maker activities in the back matter!


What surprising thing/s did you discover in researching the topics/content?

The Magnificent Makers series is geared towards kids ages 7-10; therefore, given my background I didn’t really learn any new science facts. I’m quite familiar with the science topics covered in the first three books (food chains, the brain, and our senses). But I definitely learned a lot about writing science that is accessible for children. It is quite difficult to write about complex topics such that they are understandable (and exciting) for young, recently independent readers. I went through several drafts of the first book in the series before I finally found the right formula. Additionally, I learned that despite the fact that these are science-themed books, the story and characters must come first. Science isn’t what is moving the plot forward. Instead, the science serves as a backdrop for the adventure that the characters embark upon.

What’s next?

I hope to continue writing The Magnificent Makers series for years to come. Additionally, I have a Caribbean/STEM mashup draft of a picture book that I’m polishing, which should be ready soon. It’s also a dream of mine to write a novel. I have an idea for a contemporary middle grade story that incorporates science themes, as well as an exciting outline for a speculative fiction young adult novel that would involve a dash of neuroscience. The challenge is making time to write! My job as a full-time researcher and mother of a 3-year old and 1.5-year old doesn’t make it easy. Nevertheless, I’m very excited to see where my author journey takes me! 

Theanne Griffith 39

 THEANNE GRIFFITH is a neuroscientist and the author of the STEM-themed chapter book series, The Magnificent Makers. Since she was a little girl, she’s loved both storytelling and science. Her books blend these two passions, taking young readers on out of this world adventures they’ll never forget. Theanne received her BA in neuroscience and Spanish from Smith College, and earned her doctorate in neuroscience from Northwestern University. She currently works as a researcher at Rutgers University and resides in New Jersey with her partner, two beautiful daughters, and three cats. Theanne is represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency.

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