Children’s Book Week Book Review: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM by Holly Goldberg Sloan

After reading COUNTING BY 7’S  a few years ago, I was excited to read this latest middle grade book from author Holly Goldberg Sloan. It was an absolute gem! Here is my review of this book, just in time for Children’s Book Week!

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

It’s been almost a year since Sila’s mother traveled halfway around the world to Turkey, hoping to secure the immigration paperwork that would allow her to return to her family in the United States.

The long separation is almost impossible for Sila to withstand. But things change when Sila accompanies her father (who is a mechanic) outside their Oregon town to fix a truck. There, behind an enormous stone wall, she meets a grandfatherly man who only months before won the state lottery. Their new alliance leads to the rescue of a circus elephant named Veda, and then to a friendship with an unusual boy named Mateo, proving that comfort and hope come in the most unlikely of places.

A moving story of family separation and the importance of the connection between animals and humans, this novel has the enormous heart and uplifting humor that readers have come to expect from the beloved author of Counting by 7s.

Here’s my review:

Sloan has written a story of hope and patience, teaching us that when we reach out to others with love and kindness, we get back so much more than we ever expected. Animals have a great deal to teach us about the important things in life. This book  is a pure joy to read and hard to put down. It will stay with you for days afterwards. I can picture it on the big screen like THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. A five-star winner.

Author Erica George Presents: WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY + A Chance To Win A Copy

It is with great pleasure and excitement that I am featuring author Erica George with her debut YA nove, WORDS COMPOSED OF SEA AND SKY. I had the honor of reading an arc of this amazing story and I am sharing my review here:

A sweet and thoughtful YA story where past and present converge, and poetry bridges the gap.

Narrated by two teenage girls – Leta from 1862, and Michaela from present day – who use their passion for poetry to discover greater truths around them.

Set on the shore of Cape Cod, this is a story that celebrates love. Love of family, love of the sea, love of poetry and the emotional connection it creates, the love one person has for another. A teen romance that is so much more, this book is highly recommended to anyone who has a passion for a time, feels connection to a place or era of history. The author takes us on a journey we will not soon forget.

Erica was kind enough to answer some questions about how this story came to be.

How did the story come about? What was your inspiration?

Believe it or not, this story technically began back when I was in eighth grade. Every year, my family and I would go and see a production of A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey, and on the ride home that night, I was thinking about change—who was capable of change, and who wasn’t, and why. That’s when the character of Benjamin Churchill appeared. When I got home, I climbed into bed and took out my journal, and began outlining who I thought he would be. He’s stayed with me for over twenty years. The rest of the story came about only a few years ago, and I couldn’t get the idea of two timelines converging out of my head. I love thinking about how the past can hold us back and push us forward all at the same time.

What was it like writing from two POV’s in two different time periods? How did you handle each story line while you wrote?

I’ve always loved writing both historical and contemporary characters. With Mack living in the present day and Leta living in the 1860s, the time periods helped influenced their voice, certainly, especially when I was writing their poetry. I allowed Mack to write more modern sounding poetry, while Leta’s was heavily influenced by Emily Dickinson’s work. But truthfully, the two girls had so much in common despite the almost 200 years between them, and that’s what drove the story.

The poetry adds a layer of richness and depth to this unique love story. Did you decide on using poetry from the beginning?

Honestly, I knew I wanted to write about poetry, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to write my own! I don’t at all consider myself a poet, and writing the poems was daunting to say the least. I had help from my advisor at Vermont College of Fine Arts, the talented and generous Liz Garton Scanlon. The poetry was eye-opening in exploring the characters. It helped me dive into their inner lives, and their wounds, their insecurities, and their triumphs.

The setting almost feels like a character in the book. What factors determined your setting for this story?

I’m so glad to hear this! Cape Cod is my heart. It’s the place where I feel most at home. I’ve spent all of my summers there since childhood, and my family has a house there, as well. And it’s the perfect place for 19th century poetry and whaling to meet! It’s a place that really lends itself to art—the ocean and the cliffs are so dramatic and timeless. Not to mention it has such a rich history of whaling, and now, for conservation and stewardship.

Erika will give away a signed copy of this amazing book to one lucky reader drawn at random from those who leave a comment below. It’s a wonderful opportunity to own a very special book by a gifted writer.

Here’s the pre-order link as well: www.ericageorgewrites.com/preorder 

Erica George is a writer of young adult fiction. She is a graduate of The College of New Jersey with degrees in both English and education, and is currently an MFA student at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She resides in scenic northern New Jersey, but spends her summers soaking up the salty sea air on Cape Cod.

Many themes in Erica’s writing rotate around environmental activism and helping young people find their voice. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring river towns, whale watching, or engrossed in quality British drama with her dog at her side. Erica is also a member of the Class of 2K21 Debut Group.

Website: www.ericageorgewrites.com

 

Twitter: @theericageorge

Author Rajani LaRocca Talks About Her Verse Novel RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE + A Chance to Win a Copy.


To celebrate Poetry in the Schools Month and National Poetry Month, I am featuring two give-aways for books written in verse. Today is a MG book RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE  by Rajani LaRocca. Next week I will feature a rhyming PB.

I recently did a Q&A with author Rajani LaRocca to talk about her wonderful MG novel-in-verse, RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE. Here’s Rajani:

Tell us three things we should know about the main character Reha.

  1. It’s 1983, and 13-year-old Reha feels torn between the worlds of her Indian immigrant parents and her friends at school. She adores her parents and wants to make them happy, but she also wants to fit in with her friends.
  1. Reha loves 80s pop music (especially Cyndi Lauper) and feels music connects those two worlds.
  1. She wants to be a doctor, but she faints at the sight of blood.

How did you know Reha’s story should be told in verse?

This story idea first came to me as a metaphor—the metaphor of blood, and all that it means in terms of heredity, community, and biology—and so it seemed right to tell in verse. But I’d never written a novel in verse before, so I did a lot of research and learning before I started writing.

In your Author’s Note you mention that the story has an autobiographical element. Would you care to share some of that with readers?

Like Reha, I was a teen in the 1980s and loved the music of that time. I was also an only child and an Indian immigrant, and the emotions Reha feels of being torn between worlds were very familiar to me. I also knew I wanted to be a doctor for a very early age, although luckily for me, I don’t faint at the sight of blood! My mom was injured in a car accident when I was a teen, and I shared Reha’s ambivalence about joining the world of medicine once I experienced what it was like to have a seriously ill family member.

Beyond the multi-cultural component, what other themes are important in the storyline?

Other themes include the nature of the parent-child, and especially the mother-daughter, relationship; how to deal with a loved one’s illness, and how to find hope, even when the worst happens; and the notion of belonging, and who decides that. RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE is a story about being caught between here and there, before and after, and finding a way to be whole.

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

I want young readers to know that although they may feel divided, that they can still become whole. I want them to know that their stories matter, and they should tell them, in whatever way seems best to them—in writing, or in the classroom, in a performance hall, or on a sports field. I want them to understand that those who love us understand us better than we might think. And finally, I want them to know that ultimately, we decide where we belong, and we find the people and communities who appreciate and love and support us.

Anything else you’d like to add or want us to know?

Music is a big part of this book. While writing, I listened pretty much nonstop to music from 1983-1984. I made a playlist that people can find on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5XAcxzLHYS4Y4gLAgHZeLK?si=1526a10349ea4671

and a music video playlist on YouTube: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLukL07PFxukPEStAGGRYKWGxCOabmlAl7

Reha thinks that song lyrics are poetry set to music, and I agree. One fun way for readers young and old to start trying to write their own poetry is to look at song lyrics and try writing their own.

Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area, where she practices medicine and writes award-winning novels and picture books, including Midsummer’s Mayhem (2019), Seven Golden Rings (2020), Red, White, and Whole (2021), Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers (2021), Much Ado About Baseball (2021), and more. She’s always been an omnivorous reader, and now she is an omnivorous writer of fiction and nonfiction, novels and picture books, prose and poetry. She finds inspiration in her family, her childhood, the natural world, math, science, and just about everywhere she looks. To connect with Rajani and learn more about her and her books visit her at www.RajaniLaRocca.com and on Twitter, Instagram, and Clubhouse @rajanilarocca.

Rajani has agreed to give away one signed copy of RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE to one lucky reader chosen at random from those who leave a comment on this post. Let me know if you share it on social media and I will give you a second chance to win.

Two Books That Celebrate Girl Power and Who Gets to Define Beauty.

I’ve recently had the pleasure of reading two books that might seem different since one is a historical YA fantasy and the other a contemporary MG novel-in-verse. While each has a unique story to tell, both resonated with me because of the underlying message:

Who gets to decide what beauty is and what are acceptable ways for females to look and act?

stepsister STEPSISTER by Jennifer Donnelly is a re-telling of the Cinderella story from the point of view of one of her stepsisters. Here’s the blurb:

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe . . . which is now filling with her blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she’s turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she’s a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a bold girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. She cut away pieces of herself in order to become pretty. Sweet. More like Cinderella. But that only made her mean, jealous, and hollow. Now she has a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

Evoking the original version of the Cinderella story, bestselling author Jennifer Donnelly uses her trademark wit and wisdom to send an overlooked character on a journey toward empowerment, redemption . . . and a new definition of beauty.

STARFISH cover

STARFISH by Lisa Fipps is an MG novel in verse that is told from the point of view of Ellie. Here is the blurb:

Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules–like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” And she’s found her safe space–her swimming pool–where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life–by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.

These are two books that celebrate GIRL POWER. They emphasize the idea that no one has a right to label you, define you, tell you what strength and beauty are. “You would be pretty if…you followed these rules…”

No one has the right to bully you, make you feel small or less than, or put conditions on what behavior or desire is acceptable.

These stories let you know that you are already strong. You are already beautiful. You are already worthy. Just the way you are.

Positive and important messages for every girl.

Why Freedom of Information is Important.

As writers and book authors, we value the written word and our protected right to express our views without fear of imprisonment, censorship or various other punishments.  Many people are not so fortunate.  Today’s post celebrates our right to KNOW what takes place in this country we call a Democracy.

Take a moment to recognize what we take for granted: the right to demonstrate and express opposing points of view; the right to read whatever we want to; the right to ask our leaders to change laws we don’t think are working; the right to know what goes on behind the doors of government.

Tomorrow is FREEDOM OF INFORMATION DAY.  Here is more information from http://www.NationalDayCalendar.com about this important aspect of our freedom:

Freedom of Information Day 2021: Liberty and open access to all

On March 16, we celebrate the anniversary of former President James Madison. But that day, we also celebrate the legacy he and the founders of this country left us – open government.

Madison, known as the Father of the United States Constitution, once wrote that a “popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps, both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-freedom-of-information-day-march-16/

No Butts About It! Name-Calling Is Not Acceptable by Robin Newman

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One question I get asked all the time is, “What inspired you to write this story?” My latest book, DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT!, was inspired by my son. Around the time when he was in third grade, he went through a terrible-no-good-very-bad phase where he used to think it was cool to say bad words. After all, these were words he wasn’t allowed to say that older children and adults did say. And he’d hear these words everywhere—in the lunchroom, at recess, and on the walk home from school. And once he learned a new word (even a bad word), he was more than eager to give his new-found word a test drive to the great delight of his proud parents. 

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My first drafts of Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt! focused on using bad words. In fact, the book was originally titled, Bear Said a Bad Word. But as the book evolved in the yearlong revision process, it became clear that the story wasn’t just about saying a word that should never ever be repeated. It was about calling others names and the hurt feelings that ensued.

Name-calling, use of bad words, and gossip, not only sting in the moment they’re said, but they can cause permanent damage in how children see themselves and how others view them. I wrote DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT! to show children in a very gentle way the hurt that can result from one’s words.

In DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT, Bear is an extremely light sleeper. But if Bear doesn’t get his much needed 243 ½ hours of sleep (to be precise), he turns grizzly. So, Bear builds a brand-new door to keep the noise out of his den. As it happens, one of Bear’s neighbors is Woodpecker. He is a master carpenter with a speciality in real estate development. But lately, he’s been noticing that his houses are disappearing. One day Woodpecker discovers a trail of debris and this of course leads him to Bear’s new front door. Words are exchanged. Feelings are hurt. And Bear and Woodpecker need to figure out how to resolve their problems.

We all have moments when we’re feeling grizzly. Books and activities that promote social emotional learning (SEL) can help students learn how to better manage their emotions. One such activity is teaching students how to craft an “I-Statement.”  An I-Statement looks like:

I feel . ..

when . . .

because . . .

For example:

Hilary uses my favorite magic marker and often forgets to put the cap back on.  

I feel sad when Hilary uses my favorite magic marker because she often forgets to put the cap back on and dries out the ink.

In conjunction with the above, students can collaborate just as Bear and Woodpecker did, by making and decorating their own bird houses. I found these wooden houses at Michael’s for $ 0.99 cents each.

For the activity, students will need a clean cardboard container or pre-fabricated birdhouse, construction or decorative paper, twine, glue and/or tape, scissors, hole punch, and decorating materials (paint, markers, pencils, glitter, stickers, buttons, twigs, beads, etc.).

birdhouse1

birdhouse2

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More information on how to use DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT! in the classroom will be available in the teacher’s guide. Coming soon!

On March 13th at 3PM, Robin will be having her virtual launch at Books of Wonder via Crowdcast. Please join me for the fun!

Here’s the link re the event:https://booksofwonder.com/blogs/upcoming/launch-event-for-dont-call-me-fuzzybutt-by-robin-newman

Launch Event For Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt! By Robin Newman – Books of Wonder
Books of Wonder is delighted to host the virtual event for Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt! by ROBIN NEWMAN on Saturday, March 13th at 3pm EST via Crowdcast! Celebrate the release of this amazing picture book with ROBIN NEWMAN as she shares her newest book and answers questions from the audience during the live feed! Ages 6 & Up, Saturday, March 13th at 3pm EST via Crowdcast.booksofwonder.com

The first 100 orders will also receive a free FUZZYBUTT giveaway! 

thumbnail_Newman_RobinRaised in New York and Paris, Robin Newman is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the City University of New York School of Law. She was a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she now prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs, bears, and peacocks. Author of the award-winning Wilcox & Griswold Mystery Series, she’s a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, National Writing Project’s Writers Council, the Bank Street Writers Lab, and PEN America, CYAB. Robin lives in New York with a motley crew of fuzzybutts, including a husband, son, and three spoiled dogs. She is represented by Liza Fleissig at Liza Royce Agency. For more information, please visit www.robinnewmanbooks.com.

Robin is giving away a copy of DON’T CALL ME FUZZYBUTT to one winner chosen at random from those who leave a comment on this post. Winner will be announced on this blog at a later date. Share the post on social media for a second entry.

Laura Sassi Presents: LITTLE EWE: The Story of One Lost Sheep + A chance to win a copy.

Today I am delighted to bring you an interview with award-winning picture book author LAURA SASSI. Laura will talk about her latest book titled LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP Illustrated by Tommy Doyle  http://www.beamingbooks.com

ewe cover

What inspired you to write about a “lost sheep”?

The “lost lamb” who I have sweetly named Little Ewe in my story is inspired by one of my favorite of Jesus’ parables. The parable is about a shepherd who realizes one sheep is missing and so he leaves the flock to find that one and bring it safely home.  As a child I loved this beautiful reminder that, like the shepherd in the parable, Jesus came to find the lost and, oh my, how wonderful it feels to be found. My hope is that, like Little Ewe in my story, readers of all ages will sense the comfort and joy of knowing that our Shepherd, too, wants to find us and care for us when we are lost.

ewe shot

The rhyme scheme is gentle and perfect for the story. Did you intend to write it in rhyme?

I think “gentle” is a lovely way to describe the feel of the rhyme and rhythm of the text. Yes, from the beginning, I intended for this story to rhyme. My vision was to tell the tale in gently bouncing quatrains that would evoke the playfulness of Little Ewe’s day of adventure as she wanders from the flock and also capture the gentle comfort of being found at the end of the day.

Did you plan on making the story a counting one? Tell us how that came about.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted this to be a counting story. One of my favorite aspects of Jesus’ parable was that the shepherd left the 99 to find that one lost sheep. That counting aspect really resonated with me, but I didn’t want my story to be the typical counting book where readers just look for objects on the page that don’t necessarily relate to the plot. Rather, I wanted the counting in LITTLE EWE to be an integral part of the story, helping to escalate the tension as Little Ewe wanders farther and farther from Shepherd and to conjure feelings of comfort when she is found. I hope readers will agree it adds a rich dimension to the story.

What message do you want young children to take away from the story?

This answer is easy! I want children to know that just like Little Ewe, they, too, have shepherds who care for them. These kind shepherds include special people like parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. teachers and more. And who is the kindest shepherd of all?  God, who cares for and loves them and wants them to return safely home, even when they wander from the path.

Please check out the link for an activity kit that can be used with the book. It is filled with puzzles, craft activities, coloring pages and more.

ACTIVITY KIT:  https://ms.beamingbooks.com/downloads/LittleEwe_ActivityKit_web.pdf

Here is Darlene’s review for this book:

“Little Ewe is out grazing with her herd when her curiosity makes her ignore calls to come, instead wandering off to explore. She frolics all day until dark descends and she realizes she is alone, lost, and afraid. Under the loving and attentive care of the Shepherd, Little Ewe is reunited with the flock once again. Told in gentle rhyme, this counting book is a fresh and thoughtful addition to the genre. It reminds readers that since God watches over us, we are never alone and we need not be afraid. A comforting message for all.”

I am giving away a copy of LITTLE EWE to one lucky reader drawn at random from those who leave a comment on this post. Share the post on social media and you will have a second chance to win. Just let me know where you share it.

laura sassi shotLaura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of five picture books including the best-selling Goodnight, Ark, which was a 2015 Christian Book Award Finalist; Goodnight, Manger; Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, which won First Honor Book for the 2019 Best in Rhyme Award; Love Is Kind, which was a 2020 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award Honor Book; and Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep. Her next book, Bunny Finds Easter, will release in 2022. In addition to books, she’s published over one hundred poems, stories, crafts, and articles in various children’s publications.

A graduate of Princeton University and UCLA, Sassi had a successful teaching career before becoming a children’s author. She’s been a homeschool mom, children’s ministry director, historic museum interpreter, and more. She writes daily from her home in New Jersey and finds special joy in sharing her love of reading and writing with the next generation at school visits and other book events.

Katey Howes Talks About Bodily Autonomy and Consent in Her New PD: Rissy No Kissies.

Today it is my pleasure to host award-winning picture book author KATEY HOWES who will talk about her new book RISSY NO KISSIES. The book explores the topics of bodily autonomy and consent, very important concepts to instill in young children. Here is my review of this important book:

“When a love bird doesn’t like to get or give kisses, she wonders if something is wrong with her. How can she show those she loves that she cares?

With gentle assurances in words and illustrations, this story teaches young children and those they love, the importance of bodily autonomy and consent. It should be a part of every child’s library and is the perfect introduction for discussions about these important concepts.”

And now, here’s Katey!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Darlene. I’m delighted to share a little bit about the process of writing my consent-themed picture book, Rissy No Kissies. (Illustrated by Jess Engle)

Rissy Cover

How and why did you decide to write on this topic?  

One of my three kids is exceptionally cuddly. The other two are much less comfortable with physical expressions of affection. I’ll admit that, early on, this was sometimes difficult for me to accept and respect. Even knowing how important it is for children to have control of their own bodies, there were times I really just wanted to give them a squeeze!

But as they grew, I grew, too – in my understanding of sensory processing differences, in my joy at seeing the unique ways they shared love, and in my conviction that there were not enough resources – for kids OR parents – that explained how common our family’s experience was. I grew more convinced that families needed books highlighting how natural it is to have differing preferences regarding touch and affection, resources that teach the importance of bodily autonomy and consent.

I had been playing with the idea for several months when I visited Minneapolis while promoting another picture book, Be A Maker. Lerner Publishing is headquartered there, and their team was so kind to me, helping me contact local schools and bookstores and setting me up with a tour of their offices. During that trip, I had the chance to meet up with my Be A Maker editor, Shaina Olmanson, and to bounce some of my manuscript ideas off of her. Shaina also felt strongly that kids and caregivers could really use stories that shined a light on boundaries, autonomy and consent. Her interest motivated me to work even harder on this concept!

How did you arrive at a rhyming scheme to tell the story? 

It’s funny. Often, I try really hard not to rhyme, but can’t seem to get away from it. When I first started writing this story, I kept finding rhyming couplets in my work, even when I was aiming for prose. At first, I contained the rhyme to a refrain between prose sections. The original refrain was:

 Kisses are something

That Love Birds like best

But Rissy No Kissy

Is not like the rest

With reflection, I realized this refrain centered Rissy’s differences, not her strengths. I dropped it and worked to rewrite with a focus on Rissy’s powerful opinions and proud voice. My character notes show a few words I used to envision Rissy:

Determined

Tenacious

Persistent

Emphatic!!

That descriptor “emphatic” made its way into a new refrain:

“No kissies,” Rissy chirruped, with a most emphatic squeak.”

and soon set up a rhythm and rhyme scheme that I was able to use to structure the entire text. If you check my notebooks from the time, you’ll find extensive lists of words that rhyme with “chirp,” “tweet,” and “squeak.”

Did you know from the start it would be lovebirds?

I almost always write human characters, so this book was a departure for me. It was, however, a calculated departure.

I knew going in that, for kids who have been made to feel left out or rejected when their preferences don’t fit in with other’s expectations, the interactions in this book could be really painful. Seeing a character too much like themselves being called rude, mean or sick because they don’t like hugs and kisses might make the book too emotionally taxing – and I wanted it to be a book that instead balanced the honesty of those hard moments with warmth and light and comfort.

The rhyming text helps strike that balance, as do the soothing palette and adorable characters illustrator Jess Engle created. By making Rissy an animal, we let readers put a little distance between her experience and their own.  By making her a lovebird specifically, we play on the idea that your whole species might be defined by a certain way of sharing love – but that you don’t have to be.

Please add anything else you want readers to know

There have been a number of picture books about autonomy and consent released recently, and I am so thrilled to see this. No one book speaks to every reader, or gets all aspects of this nuanced concept across. I’d love for teachers and parents to check out other suggestions including: 

In addition to reading books on the topic, it’s important for caregivers to grow their knowledge base and practice the skills needed to set, communicate, and respect boundaries. I highly recommend following @comprehensiveconsent on Instagram for daily parenting advice from a fabulous and frankly funny consent educator.

You can also check out this printable lesson plan created by my cousin-in-law (that’s a thing, right?) and curriculum expert Leah Robinson. It includes a lovebird craft and role play cards (sample below) perfect for 4-8 year olds learning about consent.

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You’ll find even more activities on my website – including this kid-friendly recipe for Sunflower Love Cookies: perfect to pair with Rissy No Kissies.

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Katey Howes HeadshotKatey Howes is an award-winning picture book author and literacy advocate. Her picture books Be A Maker and Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe are popular in maker spaces and STEM education, and her debut book, Grandmother Thorn, was named an Anna Dewdney Read Together Honor Book. A former physical therapist, Katey lives in Eastern Pennsylvania with her husband, three daughters, and a pup named Samwise Gamgee. She loves reading, weaving, cooking, camping and travel. In addition to writing for children and raising kids who love books, Katey contributes to parenting, literacy, and STEAM education websites.

“You can order a signed copy of Rissy No Kissies from my local indie, Newtown Bookshop. Just follow this link: https://www.newtownbookshop.com/katey-howes-author-page

I’m also happy to snail mail a signed bookplate to you with proof of purchase. Email howes_kathryn@yahoo.com with mailing address and personalization request. Or tag @kateywrites on Twitter with a photo of your copy or receipt for your pre-order. I will follow and DM for your mailing address. “

Love to Read? Share It With Kids on March 2: Read Across America.

“When people make the time to read with children, children get the message that reading is important.” NEA

Students, parents, teachers and people from many walks of life, will read to children March 2,  in recognition of “National Read Across America Day,” a program the National Education Association established 20 some years ago.

Athletes and actors will issue reading challenges to young readers. Governors and other elected officials will recognize the role of reading with proclamations.

Naomi Gruer, a children’s writer and preschool teacher, participated in a remote event,   “World Read Aloud Day,” a few years ago.

“Reading to kids made me so happy because, in that moment, we explored the world inside the story together.”

To prepare the children for the online experience, Naomi asked them to listen for certain things as she read — a funny incident or a silly outcome or a character acting in a peculiar way. “The minute I was on Skype with the kids, everything else melted away. It was as if I was in the classroom with them,” she said.

Later, as a Microsoft Guest Educator, she was asked by several educators to read to their students. One request came from a teacher in Spain, who wanted English to be read to her classroom.

Naomi applied the same format to all her remote classroom sessions: an introduction, followed by reading (either chapters or picture books depending on the age of the students.)

“They listened actively and were ready to point out and discuss the humor. Introducing students to my dog was the ultimate ice breaker.” Naomi blogs at https://bmoreenergy.wordpress.com

What You Can Do:

There are many free and low cost ways to provide children with books in print, online, audio and video formats. For example, the “We Need Diverse Books” program provides free diverse books to schools serving low-income students around the country.

To learn more:

Visit https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/read-across-america/support-your-readers/free-materials

How to help kids develop the reading habit:

  • Keep books everywhere you spend time. Put them in the car, in every room of the house and tuck them in backpacks and purses.
  • Visit the library often. Knowing how to use the library and learning the benefits of a library fosters a love of reading as well as a genuine respect for the services libraries provide.

Do you have a favorite children’s book? Please share it in the Comment section.

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist and voracious reader of  children’s books.

Author Vivian Kirkfield Takes Us From Here to There With Her New Picture Book + Zoom Visit Give-away.

Today it is my pleasure to post an interview with picture book author VIVIAN KIRKFIELD who will talk about her newest book FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES.

from-here-to-there-inventions-coverHere’s Vivian:

What led you to write a book on transportation pioneers?

I never started out thinking I would write a compilation book about transportation pioneers, Darlene. But my sister told me a story about a Swedish immigrant who came here in 1905 at the age of 17 with only a few dollars in his pocket. He worked as a logger and as a miner and even tried his hand as a car salesman, but he couldn’t even sell the one floor model. Eric Wickman refused to give up. He bought the floor model with the money he had saved and began offering shuttle rides to the miners in Hibbing, MN. His shuttle was so popular, he had to buy more cars and hire more drivers. Everyone wanted rides…to a shop, to visit family…and finally, he even built a bus so he could help out more passengers. And the lovely thing about Eric was that he always wanted to partner with his rivals, not put them out of business. And eventually, Eric’s little shuttle company became Greyhound. I knew that was a story kids would love. I wrote it and Essie, my amazing agent, sent it to Ann Rider at HMH. Ann loved the story – and she had an innovative idea…she asked if I could write several more similar stories about things that move.

Of course, I said YES! She asked for a list…I created a list of the first gas-powered auto, the first bike, the first intercity passenger steam train, and more. She loved all of them. I think I had 6. But she wanted 9…I added the folding wheelchair, the first robotic, and the rocket. The inventions span over 200 years…and many countries. I love that it shows kids that inventions came from all over the world and from all types of people.

But they all had one thing in common. They never gave up! No matter how many times they failed. And I think this is really important for kids to understand…that failure is an important part of success.

What was your research process like? How long did that take since there are so many people you had to learn about?

Darlene, when I look back, I do wonder how I managed to research and write so many stories. I only had about 7 or 8 months…the bus story was ready. And I did have a story about the hot air balloon that only needed to be tweaked and trimmed. But the other seven manuscript were written from scratch. Thank goodness for critique buddies who were always there to read a manuscript and give me feedback.

My process? I’d decide what I was going to write about. First, I checked the internet and online sources. Then I used the library. Not only did I have to find an inventor of something that moved, I also had to find information about that inventor – childhood, the AHA moment, and how the invention impacted our world today. I used census records if there were any (not for the hot-air balloon inventors, of course 😊). I contacted local libraries and historical societies in the towns where the inventor lived or worked. And sometimes I was able to speak with someone who knew the person…Eric Wickman’s granddaughter and I became email friends. And I got to speak with Raye Montague’s son.

It took about one month for each manuscript – that’s probably a record since most of my other nonfiction pb manuscripts took a lot longer. But I was on a deadline – and sometimes, when you have a deadline, that helps you focus on what really needs to be done.

What 3 facts were your favorite discoveries while writing this?

Three favorite facts? I have so many! I truly learned so much as I researched these amazing visionaries. But here are three:

I discovered that Benjamin Franklin was in France in 1783, on the day that the Montgolfier’s manned hot air balloon ascended. He’d been negotiating the Treaty of Paris between the United States and England after the Revolutionary War. Many of us think the war ended in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence – but that was only the beginning. And in his diary, Franklin wrote: “We observed it lift off in the most majestic manner.”

I discovered that the very first gas-powered automobile had NO gas tank, NO cooling system, NO steering wheel, NO lights, NO brake pads, and only three wheels. But the most fascinating discovery was that the inventor’s wife had contributed all the money for his experiments and prototype. And when he was afraid to take it on a road trip, she did. Her actions convinced the public that cars must be safe and easy to drive if EVEN a WOMAN could do it! On her 65-mile trip, her courage and ingenuity never failed and when she returned home, she instructed her husband as to what he needed to add to make the car better. And I’m happy to say that in 2016, 125 years after she tiptoed out of the house to take the kids to their grandmother’s house, Bertha Benz was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn MI – for her invaluable contribution to development and design of the modern automobile.

I discovered that all of these visionaries believed that nothing is impossible if you can imagine it. When Raye Montague was seven-years-old, she took a tour of a submarine. She asked the tour guide what she’d need to know in order to operate something like that. It was 1942. It was the deep South. And Raye was African American. The tour guide told her that she’d need to be an engineer, but that SHE didn’t EVER have to worry about THAT. And do you know what Raye did? She ran home and told her mother that she was going to become an engineer. And even though she wasn’t allowed to take engineering classes in college, Raye went on to become the FIRST WOMAN and FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN project manager for the Navy, leading a team of engineers to create the first computer-generated ship design.

I LOVE stories like this! And I know that they are so inspiring to young people. I just got some thank you notes from a school visit – and it validates my belief that kids need books like this!

What are some ways teachers can use this book in their classroom?

I think each chapter lends itself to classroom discussion and extension activities in various curriculum areas – science, math, geography, reading, writing, art, SEL…here’s an example for how a teacher might use Chapter Four: Black Forest or Bust:

Bertha Benz lived in a time when most people thought women were delicate and weak. But in order to test drive the car, she took a 65-mile road trip with her sons through Germany’s Black Forest. Bertha used her ingenuity…as well as her hat pin and garters to keep the car going. Bertha’s trip garnered lots of publicity – newspapers spoke of how safe a car must be if even a woman could drive it.

Chapter 4 Black Forest or Bust Automobile Bertha Benz

Ask your students:

  1. You’ve been asked to cover a big news story! It’s 1888 and a woman is driving a new-fangled automobile through your town. Write an article for the newspaper.
  2. The first gas-powered auto had only three wheels and a hand-brake. What would the first gas-powered auto have looked like if you had designed it? Draw a picture of it.
  3. Bertha drove from her home in Mannheim, Germany to her mother’s house in Pforzheim. Get a map of Germany and trace her journey through the Black Forest.

I hope you all get a chance to read the book…and if you do, I would much appreciate a review on Amazon. Those Amazon reviews are so very important – they help other customers – they help with Amazon’s marketing of the book. It only takes a minute or two…I know some of you write amazing lengthy reviews, but that’s not necessary. A couple of sentences would be perfect!

The other thing I want to mention is that #50PreciousWords is just around the corner! Last year we had 392 entries and almost 6000 amazing comments on that blog post. And the prizes this year are PHENOMENAL! Editor and agent and author critiques, seats in picture book writing classes, signed picture books, even an illustrator portfolio consultation. The contest runs from March 2 to 7…and the winners will be announced on March 20, the first day of spring! A new beginning for all of us…and hopefully an end to this health crisis. It was an unbelievable difficult 2020 and I believe 2021 will continue to be challenging – but there is hope in sight – and I believe the contest and the amazing prizes will be a shot in the arm, even if you haven’t had your Covid vaccine yet. 😊 Here is the link for the sharpen-your-pencils and a sneak peek at #50PreciousWords post: https://viviankirkfield.com/2021/02/11/happy-national-inventors-day-and-a-sneak-peek-at-50preciouswords/

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Darlene! You are such a wonderful cheerleader and supporter of all things kid-lit!

It is always my pleasure to host you Vivian!

Vivian is giving away a 30-minute Zoom chat – with a writer or teacher/class or parent/children. To enter, please leave a comment telling us about your favorite mode of transportation. One name will be drawn at random from those entered and announced on this blog at a later date.

Here is my review of Vivian’s entertaining and informative book:

From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves by Vivian Kirkfield -Illustrated by Gilbert Ford

From hot air balloons and horse drawn carriages, to bicycles, trains, buses, and rockets, inventors around the world have looked for ways to go faster and farther more efficiently. This collection of the pioneers of transportation is an informative and entertaining introduction to the science of how people travel and the innovations that get us from one place to another. Engaging illustrations and fascinating facts bring to life the visions of the people who invented better and faster ways to move on land, sea, and in the air.

                Readers get to learn a bit about each of the people behind the invention and the perseverance they all shared in getting their inventions out into the world. The underlying message of believing in yourself and never giving up is a good one for students. This is a perfect addition to the elementary school classroom nonfiction collections. 5 stars

 

cropped-pippa-home-page-031-e1543009948671

 Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, and visiting kidlit friends 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 picturesque town of Bedford, New Hampshire. 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 where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge. Her nonfiction narratives bring history alive for young readers and her picture books have garnered starred reviews and accolades including the Silver Eureka, Social Studies Notable Trade Book, and Junior Library Guild Selection.

To connect with Vivian and learn more about her books:

Website: http://www.viviankirkfield.com 

Vivian’s books are available at Barnes & Noble and indie bookstores, as well as Bookshop.org and Amazon. If you order from her indie bookstore, you can get a signed copy. If you order from anywhere else and would like a signed bookplate, please email her at: viviankirkfield@gmail.com.

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#50PreciousWords International Writing Contest

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