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

 

 

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.

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

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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! 

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 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.

You can buy these books at any of the following:

IndieBound Target Amazon Barnes & Noble Books-a-Million Hudson Booksellers

 

Interview with Brooke Van Sickle and her debut picture book, Pirates Stuck at ‘C’.

In Brooke Van Sickle’s debut picture book, Pirates Stuck at ‘C’, the pirates are on the hunt for treasure…but they’re not so great at finding any. Instead, Eric’s chasing eels, Killian’s tangled in Kelp, and Marty’s splashing with mermaids. (And that’s just to name a few!)

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I had Brooke talk a little bit more about her kid’s book writing experience and new picture book. Read more about her below.

Congratulations on your upcoming picture book! Tell us a little about Pirates Stuck at ‘C’.

Thank you! Pirates Stuck at ‘C’ is about a crew of pirates that have landed on the perfect island for a treasure hunt — or so they think. Instead, they end up in antics for every letter of the alphabet!

Where did the inspiration come from for this book?

I was reading the jokes in a copy of Highlights and thought that the punch line would make a great title. From there, I began drafting an idea for an alphabet picture book about pirates.

Pirates Stuck at ‘C’ went through about 30 drafts before it was ready to publish. And from the point it was signed with the publisher, it still needed over 10 more rounds of edits. Including a full rework about halfway through the illustration process!

Your book is published by BiblioKid Publishing, which is your own company. Explain to us why you decided to go this route and the mission behind it.

Yes – I decided to create a publishing company, actually after having a coaching session with best-selling author, Ruth Soukup. We were talking about Journey to KidLit, my blog where I help other aspiring kid’s book authors, but it turned to my own books and my passion to want to start a company. To which she simply asked, “why not now?”

And that’s how we got here. I wanted a way to give back to education, particularly through reading initiatives, and this was the best way to do that. With a traditional publisher, my royalties would be too minuscule to have that opportunity. 

That’s an interesting approach. What makes you passionate about education and reading?

I’ve always been a proponent of education because I believe it’s the axis that leads us to chase our dreams and become successful. However, it wasn’t until I was substitute teaching for inner-city schools that I realized the great need for kids to have access to books and feel empowered to want to read.

And with education being the first thing that tends to be cut from government budgets, it takes people giving to these places to help keep them funded. BiblioKid Publishing will start by donating 50% of its profits to 2 major charities, Pencils of Promise https://pencilsofpromise.org/  and First Book https://firstbook.org/ but will eventually venture into more local and individual school fundraising opportunities.

Does BiblioKid Publishing accept submissions from other authors?

BiblioKid will open up to other authors in 2021. You can find our submission guidelines when that happens on our website. And the best place to stay informed on when they open up is to join the email list. You can do that here: https://my.journeytokidlit.com/how-to-write-a-childrens-book-template and I’ll give you a free copy of my Children’s Book Template just for signing up.

If you had one tip for anyone wanting to publish their own kid’s book, what would you tell them?

You need to study the industry! The best place to start is by reading books that have been published recently and to be writing consistently in the genre you hope to write. Without being disciplined and having continual practice, it’s impossible to get better. (And you can read the other article I wrote here to get even more tips!)

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If you would like to learn more about Brooke Van Sickle, visit her website at brookevansickle.com. Pirates Stuck at ‘C’ sets sail February 25th, but you can pre-order your copy here. (And 50% of the profits will be donated back to low-income schools!)

Brooke Van Sickle is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and  Regional Webmaster for the Iowa-SCBWI region. She’s also a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MiPa).

PIRATES STUCK AT “C”, published by BiblioKid Publishing, is Brooke Van Sickle’s debut picture book. She also has 2 more books expected in 2020. When not writing her own books, Brooke teaches other aspiring writers how to write and publish kids’ books at www.journeytokidlit.com

Learn more about her on her website www.brookevansickle.com and connect with her on social @authorbrookevs.

Brooke has also agreed to give away one signed copy to a lucky reader! Leave a comment below and share this post to enter. A winner will be chosen at random and announced on this blog. Good luck!

Darlene’s Review of PIRATES STUCK AT “C”:

Hop aboard Captain Scallywag’s ship for a fun-filled adventure in this pirate-themed alphabet book. Young readers will learn about life in the sea, and the life of a pirate with whimsical and colorful illustrations to add to the fun.

Author Laurie Calkhoven has the Lowdown on Roosevelt Banks,Good-Kid-In-Training + How to Enter to Win a Signed Copy!

I’m delighted to pop onto your blog to talk about my new novel ROOSEVELT BANKS, GOOD-KID-IN-TRAINING, published in January by Red Chair Press (distributed by Lerner).

Roosevelt Banks cover

When ten-year-old Roosevelt Banks discovers that his two best friends are planning a bike and camping trip, he wants more than anything to go along. There’s just one problem―he doesn’t have a bike. Roosevelt’s parents agree to buy him a bike if he can manage to be good for two whole weeks. How can Roosevelt be good and be the same fun guy his friends want on the camping trip? Trying to be good leads to more trouble than expected―and to the discovery that being a good friend is more important than any bicycle.

THREE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ROOSEVELT

1.His parents are American history professors, which explains the family’s penchant for presidential names. Roosevelt’s full name is Roosevelt Theodore Banks. His younger sister is Kennedy Johanna Banks, and their dog is named Millard Fillmore.

2. He writes and illustrates his own stories to express his emotions. When he finds out that his two best friends are going off on a bike/camping trip without him, his reaction is to write a story in which the two boys are almost eaten by a bear – that is until Roosevelt comes to the rescue.

3. Roosevelt is a big-hearted prankster. He wreaks havoc wherever he goes, but that comes from a desire to please his friends and make them laugh.

THREE THINGS ROOSEVELT HATES

1.Most of the fun things there are to do in the world are exactly the same things that will get a kid into trouble. Not fair!

2. His desk chair isn’t on wheels and doesn’t swivel. It would be a lot more fun if it did. Just saying.

3. Lima beans, especially when paired with turkey meatloaf. Even Millard Fillmore won’t eat lima beans, and he eats socks (the dog, not the president).

Debbie Palen’s illustrations are a delight, and Kirkus praised the books for its broad humor and nuanced friendships.

Here is Darlene’s review: In order to go on a bike trip with his best friends Tommy and Josh, Roosevelt Banks needs a bike. Soon, or Eddie Spaghetti will take his spot on the trip. His parents agree to get him a bike if he can keep out of trouble for two weeks. No pranks, no horsing around, and no calls from the principal. Trying to be a good-kid-in-training is harder than Roosevelt ever imagined.

Kids will enjoy the fast-paced action and zany mis-adventures of Roosevelt as he tries to live up to his promise and stay out of trouble. They will also enjoy the things he learns along the way.  The delightful pen and ink drawings add another level of humor and fun to the tale. Destined to be a classroom favorite.

 

 Laurie Calkhoven has never swallowed a frog, knocked over a rabbit hutch, or sung too loud in music class, but she is the author of more than 50 books for young readers. Recent titles include the G.I. Dog series, and You Should Meet Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

To enter the give-away for a signed copy of this fun-filled book, leave a comment below. One winner, chosen from random will be announced on this blog.

PB Author Laurie Wallmark Presents Her New Non-fiction Book: NUMBERS IN MOTION.

Today it is my pleasure to feature Award-winning PB author LAURIE WALLMARK with her new non-fiction STEM picture book titled NUMBERS IN MOTION: SOPHIE KOWALEVSKI, QUEEN OF MATHEMATICS (Creston).

sophie cover - 3x4 - 100dpi I asked Laurie to tell us 3 THINGS readers should know about Sophie, and 3 THINGS she was amazed to discover while conducting research for the book.

1. Sophie solved a problem known as the mathematical mermaid. Just when people were  close to figuring out the solution, it seemed to slip away from them like the mythical mermaid.

2. Sophie was the first woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics that required doing original research.

3. Sophie was the first woman to hold a university chair in mathematics.

1. I was amazed that in the late 1800s, a woman couldn’t leave Russia except in the company of her husband or father.

2. I was amazed that until Sophie, there hadn’t been any woman professional mathematicians since Hypatia in fifth century Egypt.

3. I was amazed to find that the mathematical methods that Sophie discovered have increasing application to physics today.

I’ve had an opportunity to read this fascinating book and here’s my review:

“NUMBERS IN MOTION: SOPHIE KOWALEVSKI, QUEEN OF MATHEMATICS  by Laurie Wallmark (CRESTON)  is an inspiring look at a pioneering woman who never took “no” as the final answer.  Written in a clear and engaging manner, the positive messages of never giving up and having faith in your own abilities are great lessons for the classroom and beyond.” 5 stars.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA     Laurie Wallmark

www.lauriewallmark.com

Numbers in Motion (Creston, March 2020)
Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life (Sterling, 2019)
Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling, 2017)
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston, 2015)

 

CRUSHING THE RED FLOWERS by Jennifer Voigt Kaplan

I had the pleasure of winning a copy of this amazing book chronicling the events and circumstances of KRISTALLNACHT told through the alternating voices of a two boys on opposite sides of the early days of WWII and the beginning of the Holocaust.  Since today is HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY, I thought it was fitting to feature the book. I will give away a signed copy of the book to one lucky reader who leaves a comment.

Here’s Jennifer to talk about her book:

Facts about Crushing the Red Flowers

Whether you’ve read Crushing the Red Flowers or not, read on!

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Think you know the characters in Crushing the Red Flowers? Emil is a superstar at playing marbles and Friedrich loves his train collection. But can you guess their secrets? Their private hopes, dreams, likes, and dislikes? If you haven’t read the book yet, that’s okay, you can keep reading this blog. There are no spoilers that would give away big plot points. Just a few fun facts to give you an added glimpse into the characters’ worlds. I’ll even reveal a secret crush.

Crushing the Red Flowers is a middle-grade novel set in 1938 Germany over the pogrom commonly known as Kristallnacht. The story is written with alternating perspectives of two twelve-year-old main characters — Emil, a German Jewish boy, and Friedrich, a boy in Hitler’s Jungvolk.

What are Emil’s and Friedrich’s secrets?

Friedrich secretly wishes he could watch Emil beat the Jungvolk boys in a marble competition.

Emil secretly loves to play the piano. That is, he loves to create music, but hates being forced to practice. He wishes everyone would leave his house so he could sit by himself and invent melodies.

What jobs do Emil and Friedrich want when they get older?

Emil intends to become an upholsterer. He wants to learn to create furniture as fine as his favorite red velvet chair. His parents had always encouraged him to take up a trade instead of attending the Gymnasium (a German academic high school) because they thought knowledge of a vocation would be useful to him if he emigrated. And they also saw that it was becoming increasingly difficult for Jewish people to attend the Gymnasium. 

Friedrich would like to pursue an engineering apprenticeship. He wants to leave school and begin the apprenticeship in a couple years.

What are other fun facts about Emil and Friedrich?

Friedrich walks with a slight hunch because he doesn’t like to be noticed.

Emil hums when he strolls down the street because he always has a tune in his head.

Friedrich really wants a good friend. Yes, it’s true that he believes 95% of the population are fools, but he cherishes the honest connection he has with the other five percent. He had one close friend in the past, so he appreciates the significance of a solid friendship.

Emil loves learning Hebrew. The language makes him feel powerful. He pretends the foreign characters are a secret code language that only a few can read.

Friedrich longs for a closer relationship with his parents, like he had when he was younger. But he doesn’t know how to reconnect with them.

Emil wants to eat nut cake with his neighbor, Mrs. Schmidt, like he had when he was younger. To Emil, those years represent an easier, golden time when Jewish people were fully integrated into German society.

What about the other characters?

Papa (Friedrich’s father) hates kites. They remind him of the years of German hyperinflation in the early 1920s when everyone was hungry. The German currency had devalued so rapidly that neighborhood children used to fasten old, worthless banknotes together to create makeshift kites. Whenever Papa had seen a child flying one of these kites, he knew that child was not eating well. He never bought a kite for Friedrich.

Mother (Friedrich’s mother) fell in love with her husband because of his kindness toward her younger brother, Hilmar. When Papa came for visits before they were married, he would always bring him marzipan (almond sweets).

Vati (Emil’s father) likes to drive fast on purpose. Whenever Vati drives a car without his wife, he purposely speeds a bit too fast.

Mama (Emil’s mother) had started the visa application process long before Emil and his family realize. She never told anyone because, early on, they did not want to leave Germany. Mama knows her family is further along on the visa wait list than her husband thinks.

Sarah (Emil’s sister) loves spending time at the Bund, a Jewish social club. She joined after Jewish people were no longer allowed to use public places as they previously had. Sarah learned to play table tennis (ping pong) there and quickly became the best player.

Ari (Sarah’s crush) also has a secret crush on Sarah because she plays table tennis well.

Günter hates being a Jungvolk leader. He has no patience for mediocre young boys and believes he can make greater contributions in another position. He longs for advancement and wants to prove himself. He keeps details on boys’ strengths, not their faults as Friedrich believes, in his notebook, in case he is permitted to take favored boys along with him after he leaves. His favorites are Johannes (for his athleticism), Fritz (for his obedience and loyalty to Nazism), and Friedrich (for his ability to solve problems).

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Jennifer Voigt Kaplan is an award-winning author of children’s fiction. Her debut children’s novel, Crushing the Red Flowers, was published November, 2019 by Ig Publishing. The manuscript was endorsed by James Patterson and recognized in six literary contests before its publication, including earning a Letter of Merit for the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant and winning the middle-grade category of Publishers Weekly Booklife Prize for Fiction. Jennifer was born in Germany, raised in Philadelphia, and now resides in the New York City area. 

Follow her Facebook author page, facebook.com/JenniferVoigtKaplan, or visit her website, JenniferVK.com, to stay informed of her latest projects.

Here is Darlene’s review of the book:

CRUSHING THE RED FLOWERS by Jennifer Voigt Kaplan is a brave and powerful story, uniquely told, of what it means to be human during a time of insanity and chaos. In 1938 Germany, the voices of a German-Jewish boy and a boy in Hitler’s Jungvolk alternate their stories in a compelling and heart-rending tale. Vivid details of time and place, and fully developed characters with empathy, confusion, and conflict, raise this story to the top of the holocaust genre. Based on the author’s true family experiences, this is a novel that will generate many class discussions for an overlooked time period just before the outbreak of WWII. Highly recommended for middle school and up. A stunning debut.

 

 

Making Their Voices Heard: Vivian Kirkfield ‘s New PB + A Give-away.

Hi Darlene! Thanks so much for inviting me to stop by to visit. I’m especially honored because today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and my new nonfiction picture book, Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, aligns perfectly with what Dr. King stood for. It’s so important for us all to make our voices heard…when something is not right, we need to stand up and speak out. But more than just speak out, we need to do something. We also need to listen to all of the voices around us. Yes, we need to create a culture of allyship – and this is what my story is about. Who would have thought that a picture book about an event that happened over 70 years ago could be so relevant today?

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Most people who remember jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and movie star Marilyn Monroe only know their celebrity persona…but each was a multi-faceted individual. One of the main reasons I wanted to write this story was because I think it is so important for the world to embrace inclusivity and allyship…and what better place to start than a picture book that a parent or teacher or librarian will read with young children.

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Ella was Queen of Jazz and First Lady of Song to many and was the FIRST African American singer to win a Grammy. Not only did she win a Grammy…but she won TWO Grammys in 1959, the very first year they were awarded. She was celebrated here and abroad, but because she was African American and not beautiful in the Hollywood sense of the word, there were still doors that remained closed to her, especially in the United States. But Ella did not believe in violence, much like Dr. King. When she was bumped from a flight during a connection in Hawaii and missed a concert in Australia, Ella didn’t hoot and holler. She sued TWA, went to court, and won! And that was before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. Ella was a great admirer of Dr. King and, in 1968, after he was murdered, Ella composed and recorded a song as a tribute: It’s Up to Me and You. A few lines:

Use common sense

Not violence

We can live in harmony

Here’s the link in case anyone wants to listen: https://youtu.be/7VpI_0nlV8I

The second main character in my book was known as the Blonde Bombshell and in 1999, over thirty-seven years after her death, People Magazine voted Marilyn Monroe the Sexiest Woman of the Century. Back in the 1950’s, studio bosses called her strawhead because they thought she was stupid, but she wasn’t. She loved reading…and she wrote beautiful poetry. She was the first female movie star to own a production company…and her hero was Abraham Lincoln. In a time when blacks and whites didn’t mix much, Marilyn was a proponent of Civil Rights and she defied her studio to visit New York City jazz clubs. She loved jazz…and she loved Ella and Ella’s voice. It was because she studied Ella’s recordings that her own vocal ability improved…and that led to her studio bosses giving her more control over her future scripts. When asked who was her favorite singer, Marilyn replied, “Well, my very favorite person, and I love her as a person as well as a singer, I think she’s the greatest, and that’s Ella Fitzgerald.”

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So, it’s not surprising that when Marilyn found out that Ella was having trouble getting a booking at a top nightspot in Hollywood, the two ladies put their heads together and came up with a plan. Marilyn called the owner of the club and promised to bring the media if he would book Ella for a week. And the rest is history…after the performance, Ella said, “I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt … she personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild.

The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman – a little ahead of her times. And she didn’t know it.”

ella and marilyn in nightclub

I feel so fortunate to share this story with young and old alike. In these divisive times, we need stories like this to bring us together… to build friendships with people from all cultures…because in the end, no matter what we look like on the outside, on the inside, just like Ella and Marilyn, we are “full of hopes and dreams, and plans of what might be.”

Here is Darlene’s review of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: An engaging and delightful journey through the talents and friendship of two of the most popular stars of their era. This story highlights and celebrates “girl power” and how friendship is not bound by race, gender, or upbringing.

Vivian will give away EITHER a SIGNED COPY of the book OR a PB CRITIQUE to one lucky winner drawn at random. To enter the give-away, leave a comment below. The winner will be announced on this blog.

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Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, banana-boat riding, and visiting critique buddies 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 quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. 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, Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge. She is the author of numerous picture books. You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.

 

 

 

Kid Lit Author Theresa Julian Walks Into a Bar…and Tells Us How to Write Humor. There will be a give-away!

The Joke Machine: A Creative Writing Tool That’s Disguised as a Joke Book by Theresa Julian

So, two guys walk into a bar…

Wait, that’s not how I meant to start. I meant to start by telling you that I’m the author of The Joke Machine, a new non-fiction book that teaches middle graders how to create their own jokes and become funnier. I’m nervous because my spellcheck mysteriously switched into Hungarian and I can’t tell if words are misspelled.

The Joke Machine: Create Your Own Jokes and Become Instantly Funny! by [Julian, Theresa]

Spelling words wrong is something I do knot want to do. I know the importance of proper spelling, it’s something my feather taught me. If I mix up even two letters, this whole post is urined.

Now you’re probably wondering, is she kidding about the spellchecker? The urined post? And most importantly, what happened to the guys who walked into a bar? Well, the answers are yes, yes, and two guys walked into a bar – the third one ducked.

Apologies for a long introduction, I just wanted to make you laugh.

Making someone laugh is one of the best feelings in the world. Growing up as a shy child, I always wished I was funny. As an adult, I started wondering if being funny is something you’re born with, or if it’s something you can learn. I started doing research and concluded it’s something you can learn, and I was going to learn it!

I figured out that the basis of humor is surprise. It’s leading a thought one way, and then turning it in an unexpected direction. It’s the quick twist that surprises us and makes us laugh.

I worked with that concept and came up with a few lines that – remarkably – were funny! Encouraged, I started studying humorous lines. I tried to figure out what made each one funny, and being a word-loving nerd, I put the quotes into categories such as ones that use contrast, comparison, exaggeration, etc. I started seeing patterns and my book, The Joke Machine, was born!

One of the things I’m proudest of is that the book teaches a difficult, almost mysterious subject using basic tenets of English, such as contrast, comparison, literalness, etc. It teaches in a fun, funny, kid-friendly way, that keeps kids laughing and turning the pages.

Now I’m going to tell you a secret. Lean in, because I’m going to whisper this so kids don’t hear. Though The Joke Machine explains how kids can become funnier, it’s also a book that teaches them how to express themselves more creatively and how to become better, more confident writers.

The Joke Machine teaches basics, such as using similes, metaphors, homonyms, homophones, etc., to punch up sentences, but the real message is deeper. The real message is reaching past the plain “vanilla” and expressing yourself more creatively, confidently, and humorously.

For example, The Joke Machine teaches middle graders to create humor by comparing two things that don’t ordinarily go together, by using irony to call out an unusual situation, and by using literalness to respond to someone’s actual words instead of their meaning.

The book explains how to fancy-schmancy it up by using specific details, too. It shows how to change “my shoes smell bad” into “my shoes that smell like they’ve been in my gym locker since second grade”. The book encourages kids to play with words, punch up puns, twist common catchphrases, exaggerate and understate facts, and even invent words that their friends will understand just by their sound.

Finally, The Joke Machine teaches middle graders to be more confident writers because being funny is about teasing out your message, having the courage to say something and then pull it back. It’s presenting a thought, then twisting, bending and reversing it. It’s like starting with “two guys walk into a bar” and then admitting that’s not what you want to talk about – but now that I have your attention, stick with me. It’s about thinking outside of the box, playing with a message, and holding your reader’s attention, all the way down to the very last line.

TMJHeadshot2019

Theresa Julian writes humorous children’s fiction, nonfiction, screenplays and teleplays. In addition to The Joke Machine, Theresa has sold dozens of humorous stories to Amazon Rapids which have been consistently listed on the Popular and Funny rows on the Amazon app. She is also the author of a humorous ‘tween TV pilot and two screenplays that have all won or placed in multiple national writing competitions. Theresa is a graduate of Boston College and has a Master of Arts in Corporate Communications. When she’s not writing, Theresa likes to run, eat chocolate, and lip sync to her favorite songs even though she never knows the lyrics. She always wished she had a superpower, but makes a really mean eggplant parmigiana so…maybe that counts?

 

Theresa will give a signed copy of her book to one lucky winner. Share your favorite one- liner joke and Darlene will put your name in a hat for the drawing. Share this post on Twitter, or FB and receive a second entry. The winner will be announced on this blog. Good Luck!

All Colors: by Amalia Hoffman

Today’s blog entry is brought to you by author/illustrator AMALIA HOFFMA, who will talk about her new board book ALL COLORS. Here’s Amalia:

cover

In 2017, I started experimenting with pastel pencils.

I loved the textures that I could achieve and the vibrant lush colors.

After working for a while on a white background I wondered what the colors would look like on black. I ordered a fine black art sand paper and started playing with colors on top. The colors on the black background appeared much more vibrant than on the white.

I discovered that there were so many interesting textures that I could achieve by rubbing the pastel pencils and chalk on the paper. Also, I liked how spattering with a toothbrush, sponging with bubble wrap and combing paints appeared on the black background.

After two months, I had a whole collection of pieces of papers with different colors and textures. I gathered them all in a shoe box and every once in a while, I just played with them, making different arrangements by assembling pieces together on my art table.

Then, the idea came to me. What if the different colors, textures and shapes could actually make the main character in the book?

So began my book journey for All Colors.

My agent, Anna Olswanger, has been encouraging me to create a board book for very young children.

I decided to make a board book where kids would be introduced to colors and textures as they turned the pages. It ended up being a concept book with a message about friendship and diversity.

3 shirt red patch

Anna sold ALL COLORS to Schiffer Publishing and it will be making its way into the world  October 28, 2019. This is my third board book. The first was Dreidel Day (Kar Ben Publishing, 2018.)  The second was Astro Pea (Schiffer Publishing, 2019.)

Creating board books is challenging because you have to tell the story in only a few pages so the word count must be minimal. Dreidel Day has 8 words, All Colors has 9. The author must rely on the illustrations and the concept has to be very clear and simple so a toddler could understand it. At the same time, there’s got to be a narration and procession so it would be a compelling read for the child and the adult who reads the story. The images have to be simple and bright to catch the attention of a very young child.

This concept board book introduces children ages 2-6 to colors and textures while conveying a message about friendship, diversity, and inclusion.

As the reader turns the pages, colors are introduced, creating the image of a boy.

11 brush medium multi patches

Join in the fun as the boy dips his paintbrush in paint splotches and discovers that friends come in all colors.

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Here’s a link to a book trailer where I perform All Colors with a very colorful puppet:

http://www.amaliahoffman.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kathleen Burkinshaw on Authenticity in Historical Fiction.

Today it is my pleasure to help Kathleen Burkinshaw – the award-winning author of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSON – celebrate the book’s third anniversary. In this post she discusses the research involved in the sequel she is writing for the book. Here’s Kathleen:

I’ve always loved reading history books and researching a topic to find unexpected or lesser known facts on a subject, long before my first book published. I also tend to get so caught up in research, especially when I find out something that leads me down a totally different path than I could have imagined (I can’t be alone here 😊). So,  I have to be sure I’m not using it as a way to avoid actually writing my story and being creative.  

For example, I have been working on the sequel to The Last Cherry Blossom (TLCB) for a while now. Health issues have gotten in my way and then because I hadn’t written in a while, insecurity settled in. So, I spent a lot of time looking for, purchasing, and reading books on life in Tokyo during the American Occupation, since the sequel takes place a few years after the end of WWII. I wanted to involve headlines and propaganda posters as my chapter headings like I had in TLCB.  I was ecstatic when I found out I could subscribe to a resource that included the STARS and STRIPES newspaper edition that reported from the Pacific region.  

But I couldn’t help but feel that my research was missing something, just not sure what that ‘something’ could be. Since, I couldn’t quite figure that out, I began writing more scenes for the sequel.  As I did, some of my insecurity lifted and I realized the importance of balancing my research time with making time to write creatively.  It didn’t work well for me to have an all or nothing approach.

However, I kept getting stuck in some of my descriptions and the direction I wanted my story to take.  I have mentioned before that while writing TLCB, I found my sources in unexpected places. One in particular was my family’s visit to Hiroshima, honoring my mother at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims, a few months after she passed away. Being there in person, I  discovered the beauty that my Mom often spoke about growing up in Hiroshima before the bombing.  I used this discovery in re-writing my descriptions of Hiroshima for my final edits.

Well, this time, a resource found me believe it, or not!  It began with a speaking engagement for a local book club. After the event, a lovely woman introduced herself to me and told me of her recent visit to Japan. Coincidence, yes, but the incredible part is coming next! Interestingly enough, she had a friend (who lives in Maryland), Mr. Pittell, that served in the US Air Force and had been stationed at Miho Air Base (now Miho-Yonago Airport) in Japan during the later Occupation years(1953-54). He recently sent her copies of photos that he took during that time.  She asked if I might be interested in seeing them. My eyes immediately lit up and I said a resounding, YES!!

She received his permission to show the pictures to me, and we met at a local coffee shop. Not only were there pictures, but he also had written a few descriptive paragraphs about them. He loved photography and these photos were a treasure trove for me! I had the opportunity to see literal snapshots in time capturing the essence of everyday life in the town and neighboring towns to Miho Air Force Base (about a 3-hour drive north of Hiroshima).

Most pictures were in black and white, but he did have some pictures in color. I was thrilled to be able to see how young women dressed during this time and to imagine my mom dressing like that as well. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of her early teen years in Tokyo. I only have a few of her and my Dad when they first married and were on their honeymoon at Lake Yamanaka (she was in her mid-20s by then).

Mr. Pittell kindly let me keep his copies for a while to use as a guide for descriptions in my book.  This was the ‘something’ I was missing. I now had a better idea of what the towns, the soldiers, and the Japanese people looked like during the first years of the American Occupation.  These pictures also inspired another tangent to my story line for the sequel.  On top of that, I now have a wonderful new friend in the woman who shared these pictures with me.

You just never know where you will find your resources or where they might find you! I mean, what are the odds of meeting a woman who just received pictures from a soldier stationed in Japan during Occupation time?! 😊 I’m a firm believer that connections matter whether through emotions bared through your writing so that your voice or other voices can be heard; or in actually meeting someone and making that face to face good ol’ fashioned, in-person connection.

Once I finally complete my sequel, I hope that readers will feel the authenticity in and connect with my descriptions gifted to me by someone I didn’t even know!

Here is one of the incredible pictures that Mr. Pittell had taken:

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August also happens to be TLCB’s 3rd Blooming Anniversary and to celebrate, I have a Rafflecopter giveaway going on now through August 31st. Two winners will be chosen at random and win what is shown in the picture below along with a complimentary 45-minute Skype visit for teachers, librarians, and home school students. Below is the link to my TLCB Rafflecopter Giveaway. Thank you and Good Luck!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cd590dfc6/?

3rd TLCB Blooming Annivprizestwittercanva (1)