Author Rachelle Burk Presents: WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD + A Chance to Win a Copy.

I recently had the pleasure of reading a new non-fiction picture book by author Rachelle Burk that introduces fourteen amazing women who defied the norms of their culture and made positive differences in the world.

burk

Discover 14 powerful women with brief biographies for kids ages 3 to 5

Women have always accomplished big things, but history books don’t always teach you about them. This feminist book for little girls and boys is filled with the stories of strong women who used their unique gifts to make the world a better place.

  • Women from all walks of life—Explore the amazing lives and accomplishments of diverse women like Susan B. Anthony, Jane Goodall, Frida Kahlo, and Malala Yousafzai.
  • Colorful illustrations—Bring each story to life with big, vivid pictures on every page.
  • Kid-friendly language—Learn about these important women with language that’s easy to understand for new readers.

Get inspired by the stories of extraordinary women from the past and present with this top choice in women’s history books for kids!

I recently interviewed Rachelle to ask her about this book:

WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD (Rockridge Press) is a great collection of remarkable women for very young readers. Tell Us how the book came about.

Beginning in early 2020 I was fortunate to be offered book projects by educational publisher Callisto Media (Rockridge Press). The first was an illustrated chapter book biography of gymnast Simone Biles, for their “The Story Of” bio series for grades K-two.  WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD was my fourth book with Callisto Media.

How did you decide which women to feature in this important story of women pioneers?

The publisher provided me with a list of the women to be included in the book. Most were featured in “The Story Of” biography series, which I used as resources.

The eclectic illustrations styles throughout the book reflect the many talented illustrators from the chapter books, which adds to the uniqueness of this book collection.

What do you hope young readers will take away from this volume?

What sets this book apart from other picture book biography collections of great women is that this one focuses in on what the individuals did to further women’s rights and other feminist causes. For instance, people know that Harriet Tubman helped many enslaved people escape. But after the Emancipation, she became active in the fight for women’s right to vote!

Women have always accomplished big things, This feminist book for little girls and boys is filled with the stories of strong women who used their unique gifts to make the world a better place. Explore the amazing lives and accomplishments of diverse women like Susan B. Anthony, Jane Goodall, Frida Kahlo, and Malala Yousafzai. This book will give the reader images of women taking on challenges–from activism, to the arts, to physical sciences–at a level youngsters will find relatable.

Available from Amazon in Kindle and hardcover: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1638781710?maas=maas_adg_C622824C30B4A9F2F80B1591BB129216_afap_abs&ref_=aa_maas&tag=maas

I have a hardcover copy of this wonderful book that I will give away to one winner chosen at random from all who leave a comment on this post. Share your favorite female role model from history and why you find this woman inspiring. If you share this post on social media, I will give you a second chance to win.

 

Rachelle is the author of picture books, chapter books, and a science adventure novel for children. She writes both fiction and nonfiction for ages 2-13. Her most recent Rockridge Press titles include the rhyming toddler book, Stomp, Wiggle, Clap, and Tap: My First Book of Dance, and Let’s Play An Instrument: A Music Book for Kids. For Rachelle’s other titles, or to learn about her school visits, visit her website at rachelleburk.com.

Kathleen Wilford Presents Her Debut Novel: Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt + A Chance to Win a Copy.

It’s been my pleasure to recently read an ARC for a new MG historical. Kathleen Wilford’s debut CABBY POTTS, DUCHESS OF DIRT (Little Press) is a delightful story set in the 1870’s during the migration of Americans to the prairies of the Midwest for homesteading. Here is my review:

This historical fiction story set in the 1870’s, is a fast-paced trip to the days of homesteading on the Kansas prairies. When her parents force her to work at grand Ashford Manor, 12-year-old Cabby Potts will do anything to escape, including playing matchmaker between her sister and the rich young lord of the manor. If it succeeds, her scheme will save her family’s struggling homestead. If it fails? Cabby can’t even think about that.

Can Cabby find the courage to stand up for her family, a Native American friend, and an entire community threatened by land-grabbers?

The author does a wonderful job grounding the reader in time and place with period details and appropriate phrasing and language of the era. “My brain buzzed like it was full of gnats” is one of many similes that feels fresh and original. The characters are well-rounded and engaging, making for a quick read. Readers will enjoy Cabby’s antics and feisty demeanor as she navigates the unfamiliar world of the wealthy. A highly recommended debut.

I interviewed Kathleen to learn more about how she came up with her story.

Cabby Potts cover (no wrap)

What was your inspiration for Cabby Potts?

I ran across a book called Prairie Fever, by Peter Pagnamenta, and I was intrigued to learn about the British aristocracy’s fascination with the American West. Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt is based on the true story of Victoria, Kansas, an enclave of British aristocrats in the 1870’s. Victoria was designed as a “community of culture and refinement” where “the arts and graces of life” could be imported straight from London.

I couldn’t imagine a bigger culture clash than between the English nobility and hardscrabble American homesteaders. I pictured an outdoorsy 12-year-old girl forced to work as a housemaid at a grand English manor, and the character of Cabby was born. Trying to save her family’s struggling homestead, Cabby plays matchmaker between her pretty, romantic sister Emmeline and the rich young lord of Ashford Manor. What could go wrong with that scheme?

As an author of historical fiction myself, I was immediately drawn into the setting and era of the story. What drew you to writing historical fiction?

I love the way historical fiction immerses readers into a different world. All good fiction is immersive, but with historical fiction, the past comes alive in a fresh way. And there’s a serious side too: I believe that to understand where we ARE, we need to understand where we’ve BEEN. Non-fiction helps readers do that too, but fiction adds an important layer of empathy.

As for this particular era, 1870’s Kansas, I’ve always been fascinated by pioneer literature, from Willa Cather to Laura Ingalls Wilder. My life is so easy compared to women who endured life on lonely prairies, living in sod houses and struggling to keep themselves and their families alive.

Tell us a bit about your research process.

I like to begin with books that situate the time period I’m studying in a larger historical context. I follow that up with more specific books and then with primary sources. For Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt, I consulted homesteader journals, 1870’s editions of the Dodge City Times, an 1841 book by Dr. Samuel Sheldon Fitch called Diseases of the Chest (fascinating, trust me), Mrs. Beeton’s book on the duties of a housemaid . . . etc.! Since I work for Rutgers, I’m lucky enough to have access to the rich depth of primary materials owned by the university. I think primary sources are key not only to authentic details but to the language of the times.

Several experts also helped me with questions, and of course, Google is great for filling in details!

What amazing thing did you discover while writing?

How much time do we have?? I learned so many fascinating tidbits of information, many of which I couldn’t include in the book but would be happy to tell you about sometime. Some facts that DID make it into the book: people used to believe that walking on the prairie could cure consumption (tuberculosis)—housemaids were not allowed to whistle in the house—dried up buffalo dung was burned for fuel.

One fact that informed my book: fully half of all homesteaders didn’t make it and never “proved up” on their claims. We tend to romanticize homesteading on the prairies, but it was brutally difficult.

What message do you want young readers to take away from this story?

I hope kids will enjoy a funny, fast-paced story with lots of drama! Beyond that, I hoped to give readers a clearer picture of the homesteading life. Along with showing how difficult the life was, I wanted readers to see how race and class prejudices infiltrated even supposedly egalitarian rural America. Cabby wakes up to this prejudice as she forms a friendship with Eli, a half-Kiowa boy. She finally learns to use her “intemperate tongue” to stand up for him, her family, and her whole community. In Cabby Potts, I tried to portray a funny, feisty girl growing into more awareness of her world, with all its imperfections. She learns to use her voice to make that world a better place, something I hope we all can do.

What’s next for you?

I have some irons in the fire, but they’re pretty unformed at this point!

Kathleen has agreed to give away a signed ARC of the book to one lucky reader drawn at random. To enter, leave a comment. If you share this post on social media, I will give you a second entry. Winner will be announced at the end of the month.

Kathleen Wilford head and shoulders

Kathleen Wilford was born in Panama and has lived in four different countries and three different states—but never in Kansas. She studied literature at Cornell University and at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she now teaches writing. When she’s not teaching or writing, Kathleen can be found outdoors, chasing her disobedient dog.

Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt is Kathleen’s debut novel for kids. Connect with Kathleen at https://www.kathleenwilford.com/ On Twitter: https://twitter.com/kathwilford

Ordering info is on my website or:

Pre-order Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cabby-Potts-Duchess-Kathleen-Wilford/dp/1956378049/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2297827D9DKDE&keywords=cabby+potts%2C+duchess+of+dirt+by+kathleen+wilford&qid=1658255877&sprefix=%2Caps%2C542&sr=8-1

Or at my local bookstore for a signed copy: https://bookwormbernardsville.indielite.org/now-available-pre-order-cabby-potts-duchess-dirt

SHADOW GRAVE: An Interview With MG Horror Author Marina Cohen + A chance to win a copy

There are many of us out there who love the spine-tingly feeling we get from reading a good horror story.  I’m not talking about the grisly, slasher fare that leaves little to the imagination. I’m referring to the well-written story that takes us to a scary place with a setting too irresistible to pass up, and keeps us turning pages even when we fear what might be around the corner.

Marina Cohen (THE INN BETWEEN, A DOLL’S EYES) has written that kind of story for the middle grade audience with her new book SHADOW GRAVE.

shadow grave picHere’s the blurb:

Tuck Everlasting meets The Village in this delightfully eerie middle grade novel about a boy trapped in a strange town where secrets turn deadly and the unnatural lurks in the night.

Twelve-year-old Arlo is afraid of fire, creepy TV shows, and even his own shadow―but most of all, he’s afraid of losing his mother to the disease that nearly claimed her life a year ago.

During a Thanksgiving road trip, a sudden collision with a strange beast in the middle of the road totals the family’s car, and Arlo, his mom, and his sister end up stranded in a small town.

There’s something off about Livermore. No one has a phone or a car, and the townspeople aren’t exactly friendly. Without phone service to make a call for help, the family stays at the Samuels’ mansion, but inexplicable sightings at night set Arlo on edge. When he stumbles upon a dark secret that the town’s inhabitants will kill to keep, getting out of Livermore becomes a matter of life or death.

I asked Marina how the story came about.

  1.  I was hooked on this story from page one. Tell us where you got the idea for Shadow Graves.

Being an author yourself you know that ideas come from everywhere—snippets of conversations overheard, strange facts randomly uncovered, interesting people and places one might chance upon. In fact, everything we experience goes into the compost of our imaginations and after time breaks down and eventually comes out as something (hopefully!) fresh and new and engaging. Several things went into the compost of my imagination over the years, including Natalie Babbitt’s brilliant and memorable novel, Tuck Everlasting, Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, an amazing tiny creature called the tardigrade, and the real-life ghost town, Livermore. All of these contributed in varying degrees to what would become the backbone of my story, Shadow Grave.

  1. The setting feels like a character in the story. How did you decide to set the story in New Hampshire?

Settings play such an important role in all novels, but in particular, horror novels. You are correct in that they almost take on the role of a character—in some novels, the setting is the antagonist! In my free time I enjoy researching real ghost towns, their histories, and what led to their demise. When I came across Livermore—especially one particularly gruesome fact that may or may not be true—I knew this was my setting. Even its name plays an important role in my plot. I’d driven through New Hampshire some time ago and had wanted to return and visit the remains of the town in the summer of 2020 before my novel went to edit, however, it seemed the world had other plans. Despite it being a real place, and though I did borrow pieces of its history, the Livermore in my novel is a fictional—almost mythical place.

3. You definitely achieved a creepy, yet realistic setting. It really drew me in from the first page. What are three things readers should know about the main character and his sister?

Arlo has had a rough year leading up to the start of this novel. His mother was diagnosed with cancer and though the outcome was positive the experience left him changed—a more muted and anxious individual. Though he follows the series Zombie Army of Darkness because all his friends do, he much prefers the Nature Channel. He’s both fearful and fierce, but his strength lies in his calm and thoughtful manner, while his sister, Lola, can be brash and bold. Arlo follows rules while Lola likes to break them.

4. They are the perfect foils for such a story. Your choice of words and metaphors paint such vivid pictures and really set the tone for this creepy story. Tell us a bit about your writing process and how you chose to tell the story.

Since the plots of my novels tend to be quite creepy it’s important for me to establish a creepy tone. Like music which uses dissonance and irregular rhythms to create an unsettled feeling, I like to paint pictures that are slightly askew, tilting the world and keeping my readers off-balance and unsure. I write as though I’m seeing my story unfold as a film before my eyes so I lean—perhaps too heavily at times—on the visual.

5. I fell in love with your language and word choices. One of my favorite passages…

“The moon hung like a silver pendant against the velvety black dress of night”

There are so many lovely descriptions like that.  What else would you like us to know about this story?

Though this novel is primarily intended to do what horror novels should—entertain while delivering chills and spine-tingling thrills—I hope this story will leave readers with some very important life questions to ponder.

6. What is next for you?

Currently I’m working on another creepy middle-grade—this one with sci-fi undertones.

Marina is giving away one signed copy of this book to a reader chosen at random. Leave a comment if you’d like to enter. If you share the post on social media, let me know so I can give you a second chance to win.

marina pic

Marina Cohen is an elementary school teacher and author of several middle grade books including The Inn Between, The Doll’s Eye, A Box of Bones, and Shadow Grave. Her novels have been nominated for several awards in both the US and Canada.

Marissa Moss Presents: THE WOMAN WHO SPLIT THE ATOM: THE LIFE OF LISE MEITNER + A Chance to Win a Copy

I recently had the pleasure of reading the newest non-fiction book written by best-selling author MARISSA MOSS. THE WOMAN WHO SPLIT THE ATOM: THE LIFE OF LISE MEITNER is a detailed, and comprehensive account of an unknown female physicist who discovered nuclear fission but received little credit for her discovery.

TheWomanWhoSplitTheAtom(1)

Bestselling author-illustrator Marissa Moss tells the gripping story of Lise Meitner, the physicist who discovered nuclear fission. Here is the blurb:

As a female Jewish physicist in Berlin during the early 20th century, Lise Meitner had to fight for an education, a job, and equal treatment in her field, like having her name listed on her own research papers.

Meitner made groundbreaking strides in the study of radiation, but when Hitler came to power in Germany, she suddenly had to face not only sexism, but also life-threatening anti-Semitism as well. Nevertheless, she persevered and one day made a discovery that rocked the world: the splitting of the atom. While her male lab partner was awarded a Nobel Prize for the achievement, the committee refused to give her any credit.

Suddenly, the race to build the atomic bomb was on—although Meitner was horrified to be associated with such a weapon. “A physicist who never lost her humanity,” Meitner wanted only to figure out how the world works, and advocated for pacifism while others called for war.

The book includes an afterword, author’s note, timeline, select terms of physics, glossary of scientists mentioned, end notes, select bibliography, index, and Marissa Moss’s celebrated drawings throughout. The Woman Who Split the Atom is a fascinating look at Meitner’s fierce passion, integrity, and her lifelong struggle to have her contributions to physics recognized.  Recommended for ages 9-up

I recently interviewed Marissa and asked her how this amazing story came about.

  1. How did you discover Lise Meitner and what led you to tell her story?

My youngest son is a grad student in physics and he told me about Lise Meitner. He knows how interested I am in people (often women) who deserve to be better known but haven’t gotten the credit they deserve. He warned me Meitner could be tricky since her discover led directly to the atomic bomb, but she herself refused to work on it (though she was asked) and the more I learned about her, the more compelling I found her. 

2. How did you set up your research for such a complicated and technical project? What was the most difficult part?

I started by reading the two adult biographies written about her and followed up by going through her amazing archive of letters in documents, now in Cambridge, England where she spent the last years of her life. She not only had letters that were sent to her but copies of the letters she sent, so I could see both sides of the conversation. Most of the letters are in German, so I had to dust off my German language skills. It got easier the more letters I read as I became familiar with her writing style.

Two things were especially difficult — the first was to explain the physics involved clearly so a middle-grade student could understand it all. The second was not to sound too angry or outraged about Otto Hahn, her long-time partner who stole the credit for her discovery. I wanted to let the readers draw their own conclusions by simply describing what he said or did, but it was hard to keep calm whenever I wrote about him. Meitner herself was so generous and patient with him in all their many letters, even carefully explaining to him the momentous discovery which he didn’t understand at all, yet had no trouble taking full credit for. 

3. What important ideas do you want readers to remember about Lise and her life’s work?

I want them to know that she was a scientist who faced incredible obstacles, first as a woman, then as a Jew, but she was determined to do what she loved. And she did it with absolute integrity, pure science for knowledge’s sake, never as a tool of politicians or the military. 

4. Why this story and why now?

This was actually delayed due to covid (as so many things in publishing were). When I wrote most of it, Trump was president and the echoes of him and some of Hitler’s actions were positively eerie — the preference, for example, of relying not on experts for information, but on a trusted close circle. So when Hitler’s personal photographer dismissed the potential of atomic energy/weapons, Hitler agreed, rather than listening to the scientists in his government.

Now, with the Russian war on Ukraine, it seems even more timely, as the blanket German support of Hitler seems disturbingly parallel to the blanket Russian support of Putin. The German people thought Hitler was making their country stronger and that’s what mattered most. The average Russian seems to think the same of Putin. 

5. What else should we know about the WOMAN WHO SPLIT THE ATOM?

Meitner’s integrity is an incredible example for all of us to follow. She always did what was right, not what was easy.

**STARRED REVIEW** 
“Moss’ approach to this biography is notable in several ways, from the organization of facts into a very readable narrative to surprisingly clear explanations of Meitner’s scientific work and its significance. Even the back matter is uncommonly useful.”―Booklist

**STARRED REVIEW**
“A scorching profile of a brilliant physicist whose proper re cognition was long delayed thanks to sexism, antisemitism, and personal betrayal. . .A bright tale of a life dedicated to science, well stocked with dramatic moments and discoveries.” –   Kirkus Reviews

I am giving away a copy of this amazing book to one commenter chosen at random. Leave a comment below for one entry. Share this post on social media for a second chance to win.

 

marissa

Marissa Moss has written than seventy children’s books, from picture books to middle-grade and young adult novels. Best known for the Amelia’s Notebook series, her books are popular with teachers and children alike, using graphic formats to introduce history in an accessible, appealing way. Barbed Wire Baseball won the California Book Award, Gold medal and the California Young Reader Medal.

In 2013, Moss founded Creston Books. The small press has earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Booklist, as well as awards. Each list balances picture book and older readers, debut authors and established names, showcasing the best in children’s books.

Book Review: AFRICAN TOWN by Irene Latham and Charles Waters

Every now and then I come across a book that leaves me breathless and awed by its storytelling and power. AFRICAN TOWN african townby Irene Latham and Charles Waters is just such a book. Here is the blurb from the publisher:

Chronicling the story of the last Africans brought illegally to America in 1860, African Town is a powerful and stunning novel-in-verse.

In 1860, long after the United States outlawed the importation of enslaved laborers, 110 men, women and children from Benin and Nigeria were captured and brought to Mobile, Alabama aboard a ship called Clotilda. Their journey includes the savage Middle Passage and being hidden in the swamp lands along the Alabama River before being secretly parceled out to various plantations, where they made desperate attempts to maintain both their culture and also fit into the place of captivity to which they’d been delivered. At the end of the Civil War, the survivors created a community for themselves they called African Town, which still exists to this day. Told in 14 distinct voices, including that of the ship that brought them to the American shores and the founder of African Town, this powerfully affecting historical novel-in-verse recreates a pivotal moment in US and world history, the impacts of which we still feel today.

Here’s my review:

This YA novel-in-verse, inspired by the true story of the last African slave ship Clotilda, is not to be missed. Stunning in scope and breathtaking in detail, readers become part of the group of survivors who endure captivity aboard the ship, suffer brutality and deprivation as slaves in an unfamiliar country, and never forget their African roots. Told in alternating points-of-view, by characters named for the actual people who were kidnapped and brought to Alabama before the start of the Civil War, even though slavery was then illegal…on paper. At times heart-wrenching and uplifting, the spirit of survival and freedom resonates and endures in the hearts and minds of these courageous souls who create a new home away from home in a place they never chose to be. Beautifully written and respectfully told, this story will stay with you long after the reading is done.

If you haven’t read this book yet, I encourage you to do so and to pass it along to your friends and family.

Cover Reveal: Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt by Kathleen Wilford

Today it is my pleasure to be among the first to see the fabulous cover reveal for a debut MG historical. Those who follow me know my love of historical fiction, so I was  excited when debut author KATHLEEN WILFORD contacted me about a blog post cover reveal.

So…without further ado, here is the gorgeous cover of CABBY POTTS, DUCHESS OF DIRT  and a short interview with Kathleen about her book.

Cabby Potts cover (no wrap)

Describe your book in 10 words or less.

Thanks so much, Darlene! How about this:

A sod house, a grand manor. A mystery, a match-making scheme. (That’s 11 . . .)

Tell us about your debut historical MG novel, Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt. When is it coming out?

Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt will be released September 1, 2022 with Little Press/Blue Bronco Books.

The book is set in Kansas in 1875, the year after the grasshoppers devastated the state. My main character, Cabby Potts, is inspired by some of my own favorite literary heroines, Laura Ingalls and the pioneer women in the novels of Willa Cather. Like them, Cabby is “outdoor kind of girl,” more interested in farming than fashion. Cabby’s struggling homestead is her first real home, and she’s desperate not to lose it, even if that means accepting a housemaiding job at stuffy, high-class Ashford manor. She’s also a bit naïve and has what her mother calls an intemperate tongue, qualities that get her in trouble after she hatches an improbable matchmaking scheme between her romantic older sister and the young lord of Ashford Manor. When her rash plot backfires, Cabby must use her voice to stand up for herself, a Native American friend, and her entire community.

How did you get the idea for this story?

I ran across a book called Prairie Fever, by Peter Pagnamenta, and I was intrigued to learn about the British aristocracy’s fascination with the American West. Cabby Potts, Duchess of Dirt is based on the true story of Victoria, Kansas, an enclave of British aristocrats in the 1870’s. Victoria was designed as a “community of culture and refinement” where “the arts and graces of life” could be imported straight from London. I couldn’t imagine a bigger culture clash than between the English nobility and the hardscrabble American homesteaders who might have worked for them.

At the same time, I didn’t want to portray Americans as somehow free from the race and class prejudices of the wealthy English. One of the things Cabby wakes up to as she befriends a Kiowa boy is the pigheadedness, as she puts it, of her own community, beloved as it is.

The cover for this book is beautiful. Tell us about it.

 Thanks, I love it! The cover was created by Katie Kear of the Bright Agency. I think she captured Cabby’s character: curious, determined, a bit headstrong, and not very girly! That’s Ashford Manor at the bottom, a grand English manor plunked down on the windswept plains of Kansas. You’ll also notice a brooch and a mysterious document on the cover—there’s a mystery in this book that readers will enjoy helping Cabby puzzle out.

Here is the artist’s website to see more of her amazing work. Her name is Katie Kear, and the website is:

 Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

 I would describe my speed along the road to publication as . . . glacial. My first novel manuscript, which I still hope to revise one day, suffered from rookie mistakes like not considering marketability! I gained from experience, and I think that Cabby is a stronger book. Still, after a few close calls with editors and agents, I stopped submitting for over a year. I was still in that stage where a rejection seemed like a verdict. You know, “lousy book.”  

I will be forever grateful to Michele McAvoy of The Little Press for seeing the potential of the book based on a #PitMad tweet in the summer of 2021. After acquiring Cabby, Michele and her team have guided me through an editing process that has made the story as polished and strong as possible.

What are some of your favorite classic MGs? How about recent ones?

 I grew up with immersive fantasies like the Narnia books and The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. Anything English seemed magical to me, but I also loved Beverly Cleary and The Witch of Blackbird Pond and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. 

There are so many recent MG’s I admire, so I’ll just name some historical ones I think are amazing: Moon Over Manifest, The War that Saved my Life, Esperanza Rising, Front Desk, and anything by Linda Sue Park.

war

 What projects are you working on now?

I’m having a great time reading some super-recent MG’s like Cuba in my Pocket, A Place to Hang the Moon (more English magic) and Frankie and Bug. manifestAnd my fellow #22Debuts authors have some great things coming out!   

What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same as you’d give to aspiring authors?

 My biggest advice to my younger self would be to start writing earlier, ha ha!

For aspiring authors, my first piece of advice would be to join a critique group. For a thousand reasons.

Also, read, read, read! Study the market and read in your genre. When you come across a book you love, study its structure, themes, characters, etc.

And be willing to learn. Don’t fall in love with your first draft. When agents or editors are “critical” of your work, try to understand why. Writing for publication is a skill not learned overnight!

Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.

 No surprise, I was a READER as a kid. In fact, my memories of childhood are often pegged to books. Snuggling with my mother as she read out loud: Heidi (I cried.) Summer camp rest time: Rascal. Favorite Christmas present: my now worn-out boxed set of the Narnia books. There was never any question what I’d study in college and grad school: English literature. I taught middle-school and high school English, and I now teach writing at Rutgers University.

Several years ago, I started pursuing what had always been a background dream: writing my own books. I’m grateful to a friend who encouraged me to get started, to SCBWI for opportunities to learn from industry insiders, and most of all to my dedicated, professional critique group who help me conquer my self-doubt. It’s been quite a journey, and we’ve been on it together.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?  Kathleen Wilford head and shoulders

I was born in a place that no longer exists: The Panama Canal Zone, Panama. (The Canal Zone was once a U.S. territory but was formally returned to Panama in 1999.) I also lived in Costa Rica and Colombia. I can speak some Spanish, but I’m rusty.

Where can people find you online?

People can find me on Twitter by following @kathwilford. I also have a website at kathleenwilford.com.  

Congratulations on your first book Kathleen. Can’t wait to see it out in the world!

Author Christine Van Zandt Presents: A Brief History of Underpants + A Giveaway…of a Signed Copy, Not Underpants!

Today it is my pleasure to feature a fascinating picture book by author CHRISTINE VAN ZANDT (Illustrator Harry Briggs) about something we all use, and rarely think much about until we run out…underpants!

How did you decide to write about “unmentionables”?

While volunteering at our elementary school’s annual Book Fair, kids told me they thought nonfiction picture books were boring. Set out to prove them wrong, I brainstormed for a topic. Our (then) third grader came up with underwear.

After researching what had been published, there seemed to be room in the marketplace, so I wrote the funny nonfiction picture book, A Brief History of Underpants, then connected with a publisher via the Twitter event, #PitMad.

Cover, A Brief History of Underpants by Christine Van Zandt

What was the research process like?

Researching was crazy because the pandemic had closed down libraries and bookstores right when I most needed them. I ended up buying a lot of reference books online and using reputable e-sources to uncover underwear info from all of the continents back to the beginning of time.

Finding underpants facts in general is harder than you’d think—I guess there’s a reason they’re called “unmentionables”!

What is the funniest thing that happened since the book’s been out?

Since my book’s about all the things we’ve historically worn “down under,” I think it’s funny that my book’s quite popular Down Under with high sales numbers in Australia to bookstores, libraries, and readers.

kangaroo and joey

The illustrations are so much fun and add another layer of laughs to the book. Did you have any input into the illustrations?

I enjoy Harry Briggs’s art; his iconic comic-style worked well with this book. His illustrations for A Brief History of Underpants had to be somewhat realistic so I communicated links with images of historical underwear for his reference. H took it from there. I good example of this is the Ötzi the Iceman spread. The clothing scraps echo the real items Ötzi was found wearing; everything else is just Harry’s fabulous imagination!

Otzi

What is your favorite fact from the book?

There are so many, it’s hard to choose. While I’m fascinated that King Tut was buried with 145 loincloths (and wish I knew why!), I have to vote for the Medieval fact that ashes mixed with pee help remove stains, brighten colors, and degrease spots. That’s kind of gross to our modern sensibilities, yet I appreciate how it’s practical and natural to reuse things that would otherwise be thrown out. I’m not saying we should do this exactly, but finding another use for garbage seems like a great idea.

What’s next for your writing?

I have a number of completed picture books. One I would like to see take wings is a lyrical narrative nonfiction picture book about the challenges faced by monarch butterflies, from egg through metamorphosis. This manuscript has won a few prestigious awards, such as through SCBWI. I hope the story connects with a publisher so I can share this amazing creature’s struggle to survive and how actions such as growing pesticide-free flowers and milkweed can make a difference in this butterfly’s survival.

Here’s my review of this delightful and entertaining book: “A humorous and entertaining walk through the history of underpants. Ever wonder what astronauts in space or explorers in Antarctica do with dirty undies? Want to dress like a samurai? Ever wonder who invented underwear to begin with? All these questions and many more are answered in an informative, pun-filled way. The playful and funny illustrations add another layer of enjoyment to a subject kids will be drawn to. Everyone needs underwear…and you will need this book for the classroom and beyond.”

Christine Van Zandt with her book, A BRIEF HISTORY OF UNDERPANTS

 

Christine Van Zandt hasn’t found fossilized underwear (yet!), but loves digging up ideas that make great books for kids. She’s a literary editor and lives in Los Angeles, California, with her family and a monarch butterfly sanctuary.

Visit her online at  christinevanzandt.com.

Author photo by Marlena Van Zandt             Book images courtesy of becker&mayer! kids

GIVEAWAY:   Christine has agreed to mail a signed copy of the book to a US address randomly chosen from those who leave a comment below. If you share this post on social media, I will give you a second chance to win.

Perfect Pairing:Ice Cream and Summer by Marilyn Ostermiller

Want a good reason to indulge in ice cream? Here it is: Today, August 19 is Soft Ice Cream Day.  1 Vanilla

Soft and hard ice cream are made with the same ingredients, but soft ice cream has less milk fat and more air, making it more delicate and smoother.

Ice cream magnate Tom Carvel discovered soft ice cream by accident. Carvel was driving his ice cream truck on Memorial Day weekend in 1934, when a flat tire stranded him by the side of a road. He knew his product — and profits —were melting, so as vacationers drove by, he sold them the softened ice cream. They loved it.

Within two years, in the midst of the Great Depression, he had patented a super low-temperature ice cream machine, created a secret formula ice cream and opened an ice cream store on the site where his truck broke down.

Ice cream was especially popular during the Depression. Money was tight, but ice cream cones cost only a nickel.  Then, as now, vanilla, strawberry and chocolate were popular ice cream flavors.

About that time, a candy maker, Joseph Edy, and ice cream maker, William Dreyer, collaborated to add marshmallow bits and walnuts to chocolate ice cream, and named it Rocky Road, a reference to the difficult times.

Also in the 1930s in Sicily, rum-soaked raisins were added to gelato to create another enduring flavor, Rum Raisin. Gelato is similar to soft ice cream, in that it has less milk fat than traditional ice cream.     gelato

Making ice cream is a time-honored family tradition.These books offer instruction and and ideas:

The Homemade Ice Cream Recipe Book: Old-Fashioned All-American Treats for Your Ice Cream Maker, by food writer Robin Donovan. Published by RockRidge Press.

The Homemade Ice Cream Recipe Book: Old-Fashioned All-American Treats for Your Ice Cream Maker

The Perfect Scoop, Revised and Updated: 200 Recipes for Ice Creams, Sorbets, Gelatos, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Leibovitz. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House.  

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts by Jeni Britton Bauer. Published by Artisan, a division of Workman Publishing     

America’s Favorite Ice Cream Flavors

    • Vanilla
    • Chocolate
    • Cookies N’ Cream
    • Mint Chocolate Chip
    • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
    • Buttered Pecan
    • Cookie Dough
    • Strawberry
    • Moose Tracks
    • Neapolitan

What is your favorite flavor?

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Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who delights in cooking, baking and trying unusual flavors of ice cream.

Like MG Historical Fiction? Here are Two Winners by Author Tamara Bundy.

It has been my joy to recently read two books of historical fiction for middle grade readers. Author TAMARA BUNDY, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the #nerdcampPA virtual event earlier this month, is the author of both books which I highlight and review here.

The first one, her debut, is WALKING WITH MISS MILLIE.

Walking with Miss Millie by [Tamara Bundy]

“A memorable and lovely debut.”Kirkus Reviews
 
Walking with Miss Millie is full of subtle wisdom. Its ending is satisfying though sobering and there are elements of this story that stay with you long after the last page has been read.”–Karen English, Coretta Scott King Honor Award Author

My review:

Great historical fiction debut set in Georgia in the 1960’s. My favorite quote sums up the theme and message of the story: “What makes us different isn’t nearly as important as what makes us the same.” 

The second one is PIXIE PUSHES ON.

Pixie’s defenses are up, and it’s no wonder. She’s been uprooted, the chickens seem to have it in for her, and now her beloved sister, Charlotte, has been stricken with polio and whisked away into quarantine. So it’s not surprising Pixie lashes out. But her habit of making snap judgements–and giving her classmates nicknames like “Rotten Ricky” and “Big-Mouth Berta”–hasn’t won her any friends. At least life on the farm is getting better with the delivery of its newest resident–a runt baby lamb. Raising Buster takes patience and understanding–and this slowing down helps Pixie put things in better perspective. So too does paying attention to her neighbors, and finding that with the war on she’s not the only one missing someone. As Pixie pushes past her own pain to become a bigger person, she’s finally able to make friends; and to laugh about the fact that it is in places where she least expected it.

My review:

“Set in the 1940’s during the last months of WWII. Ten year-old Pixie is grieving the loss of her mom. And now her beloved older sister Charlotte is in a hospital far away recovering from polio. Pixie has to learn to navigate a new life with Dad on her grandparents farm.

Period details put readers right into the era as we walk beside Pixie, going to school, doing her farm chores, and navigating the uncertain days. A story sad, hopeful, and glorious in the telling. Historical fiction at it’s best. ‘

Tamara Bundy

Tamara Bundy is a former columnist for the Cincinnati Post. Her regular column on being a mom also appeared on EWTN global Catholic radio. She is an adjunct instructor at Miami University-Hamilton and a mom of four. Bundy is the author of 5 non-fiction books and the middle grade novels Walking with Miss Millie and Pixie Pushes On. Her debut picture book, Lullaby Prayer releases November 2020. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband.

Want Great KidLit Books For Summer reading and Beyond? Check Out #NerdcampPA2021

For teachers, librarians, and anyone looking for great books for kids of all ages, you might want to check out the second virtual #NerdCampPA which goes live this Thursday, July 15, 2021 beginning a 9AM EST.

I have the pleasure and honor of being on two panels to talk about my books.

The first panel at 10 AM is:

Historical Fiction for a Middle Grade Audience: Empowering Students to Create Fictional Stories Using Pieces of History with authors Dianne Salerni, Jennifer Robin Barr, and Tamara Bundy.

The second one at 11AM is:

NerdCampPA_11am slide

There will be give-aways of books, curriculum materials, and lots of information to use in the classroom and beyond. Hope you’ll join me and check out this exciting FREE event. Feel free to share.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1057567451116277/