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.

Castle_Advance

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.

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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.

Cover

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

newspaper pic

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

 

 

Jeffry W. Johnston, YA Author Presents: FOLLOWING, his new release.

Today it is my pleasure to host a fellow KidLit  Author’s Club author Jeffry W. Johnston, who just released his latest mystery/thriller titled FOLLOWING (Sourcebooks Fire).

Following cover

“A twisty mystery” – Kirkus Reviews
“Moving and authentic” – Publisher’s Weekly
“Students that love a good mystery will enjoy this book” – School Library Connection
“A slow burn thriller that veers in surprising directions, with a final twist no one will see coming” – Booklist

Here is a link to the entire Publishers Weekly review   https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4926-6461-1

Daily Times photo

Other books by Jeffry W. Johnston:

THE TRUTH, from Sourcebooks Fire
2017 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
2017 In the Margins Book Award winner
“A tough, fast, twisty brawler of a book” – Booklist
“Recommended for readers who enjoy edgy thrillers” – School Library Journal
“This captivating thriller keeps the pacing fast, the tension high, and the emotions raw.” – Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

FRAGMENTS, from Simon Pulse,
2008 Edgar nominee for Best Young Adult Mystery
2008 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
“This novel will keep teens reading to the very last page.” – Booklist, Editor’s Choice, Great Read.

Jeffry W. Johnston is the author of the Edgar-nominated Fragments and the In The Margins Book award winner The Truth. Both were YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers selections. He also writes freelance articles on numerous subjects, including film and television. He writes music, plays guitar and sings in a band, and loves movies, reading, baseball (he has always been and always will be a Phillies fan), and bingeing entire TV series. He lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife and, when he’s home from college, their son.

http://www.jeffrywjohnston.com

Make Valentine Treat Bags For Your Favorite Valentine.

This is one of those easy craft projects I saw in a magazine and instantly did a forehead slap – why hadn’t I thought of this? If you and your kiddos want a clever way to say “I Love You” for Valentine’s Day, make some of these HEART ENVELOPES to put a sweet treat into.  All you need are construction paper or doilies, scissors and glue. Just follow the photo instructions and you’re all set!

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Glue the seams together like in the photo below.

4    5

Don’t be limited using just one color or paper style. Try lining the envelopes with tissue paper or doilies for a fancier, Victorian effect:

7   6

If you’re looking for some perfect picture books with a Velantine’s Day tie-in, here are two of my favorites:

LOVE IS KIND by Laura Sassi  Love Is Kind by [Sassi, Laura]

 

SEALED WITH A KISS by Beth Ferry  Sealed with a Kiss

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Winner of PB Critique From Vivian Kirkfield.

On January 28, I had the pleasure of hosting PB Author Vivian Kirkfield as she talked about the collaboration that took place between author/illustrator for her upcoming picture books. Vivian was gracious enough to give away ONE critique to a random person who left a comment. SEVENTY-ONE  comments later (it has been the most popular post on my blog to date), I am happy to announce the winner:

Drum Roll Please……drums

Congratulations, JODIE PARACHINI. Please send Vivian your email address so she can be in touch with you.

Thank you Vivian, and all you wonderful writers out there who responded  with warmth and enthusiasm to Vivian’s success. She’s an inspiration to us all!

Historical Fiction: The Devil Is In the Details by Marilyn Ostermiller

Earlier this month Marilyn Ostermiller gave us a wonderful post with some tips on how she conducts research when writing historical fiction.  Here she is with part two of that process:

THE GREAT ALONE, and WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, two of 2018’s most popular historical novels, take readers back in time to 1974 and the 1950s, respectively.

The characters in historical fiction can be imaginary, but the world they inhabit must be based on the reality of a particular time and place.“The devil is in the details” is an appropriate idiom to describe this writing process.

Writers who carry it off, research every aspect of when and where the story takes place, from dialect to popular foods and the endless minutia of daily living.

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Author Kristin Hannah was well-acquainted with Alaska’s wilderness, before she wrote THE GREAT ALONE, which received the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction of 2018. She tells the story of a Vietnam veteran, who returns home emotionally unstable, a violent threat to his wife and daughter. Hannah knew the area from her childhood. Her parents went to Alaska in the 1970s for adventure, fell in love with the state and started a business there. kristenhannah.com

 

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Likewise, Delia Owens set WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING where she grew up, the rural South during the 1950s. Her main character is an illiterate 10-year-old girl, who must fend for herself in the North Carolina marshes after her mother, and then her father, abandon her. Owens also drew on her experiences as a wildlife scientist, in Africa, and the U.S. deliaowens.com

 

Authors who write historical fiction don’t need to rely on personal experience, but are more likely to tell an engaging story if they set it in interesting times. That might explain all the action- packed, emotionally charged novels set during times of social upheaval, such as war. World-building for them begins with maps, history books, news accounts and such memorabilia as personal letters, scrapbooks, matchbooks, diaries and old photos.

A photo that guided me through the first chapter of a children’s book I’m writing helped me visualize what it would have been like, during the Great Depression, to be caught in a bank panic, desperate to worm your way through a jam-packed crowd to lay claim to your life savings. A black and white photo, that captured the intensity of the moment, showed dozens of people,  jostling together, all intent on surging past a guard into the bank.    bank_run_on_american_union_bankPhoto credit: National Archive

Memorabilia and souvenirs are ripe sources for historical fiction. I remain intrigued by a World War II-era menu my mother saved from a restaurant in Shreveport, La. She was visiting my father, an Army soldier poised to ship out to Italy. For her, the menu was a romantic memento. For me, as a writer, I see a young couple with an uncertain future, about to be separated by a war being fought an ocean away, and I wonder what they said and what they were thinking. That’s where historic fiction begins. b49bb3fb-45d9-4252-a2f0-23f464d866f0

What’s in your attic with the power to evoke a story from the distant past? So many  stories are just waiting to be uncovered. Please share your comments and some of your favorite historical fiction books.

Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who has expanded into children’s literature. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne