Baseball Opening Day: Celebrate With Baseball Themed Books.

While this virus keeps us indoors, we can still get excited about the upcoming  summer when hopefully, things will be much better.  Today is the official opening day of the 2020 baseball season. I thought I’d recognize that with a couple of my favorite baseball themed books and with a poem from my new book, WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY  (Creston April 2020).

GOODBYE, MR. SPALDING, by Jennifer Robin Barr is a thoughtful and heart-warming middle grade tale of friendship, family and baseball set in Philadelphia in the early 1930’s.

Twelve-year-old Jimmy Frank and his best friend Lola have lived next door to each other since they were babies. Their houses overlook Shibe Park which happens to be the home of the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team. They and their families enjoy cheering on their favorite team from the rooftop bleachers of their 20th Street homes. The small admission fees charged to the folks that fill up the bleacher seats goes a long way toward making ends meet during difficult times. And, every so often an A’s player – like Jimmie Foxx – hits a right field home run right over the fence and onto their rooftop.

At the end of the 1934 season, the neighborhood gets news of a wall that is planned to be built to block their view and make the rooftop bleachers obsolete. This “spite wall” will take away a source of income for the families and erase a beloved tradition. Jimmy sets out to try and stop the wall. With Lola’s help, they try one scheme after another and only succeed in causing trouble for themselves and the community. Will Jimmy’s obsession with the wall ruin his chances of being bat boy for the A’s? Will it ruin his friendship with Lola? Will the Polinski brothers – AKA the neighborhood bullies succeed in ruining Jimmy?  Reader’s will eagerly turn pages to find out.

This delightful story is solidly grounded in the 1930’s with enough local and historical details to fix the depression-era time period. Hopeful, heart-felt and a celebration of teamwork and sportsmanship, it is sure to become a classroom favorite. It knocked me out of the park. Rule # 1934: Goodbye, Mr. Spalding is a home run!

THE EVERYTHING KIDS’ BASEBALL BOOK by Greg Jacobs has…everything.

“Everything you want in a kid’s book” (Associated Press) this informative and accessible guide to America’s favorite pastime covers everything from baseball’s history to today’s favorite players—with lots of home run fun in between.

WHO GOT GAME: BASEBALL By Derrick D. Barnes

Illustrated by John John Bajet

Who Got Game?: Baseball: Amazing but True Stories!

Celebrate the unheralded people and stories that helped shape the game of baseball!

Meet unsung pioneers, like John “Bud” Fowler, William Edward White, and brothers Moses Fleetwood Walker and Weld Walker, four African Americans who integrated white teams decades before Jackie Robinson.

Discover unforgettable moments, like the time a 17-year old girl named Jackie Mtchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Marvel at records. Did you know that Japanese superstar Sadaharu Oh has a whopping 113 more career homers than Hank Aaron?

Finally, here’s a poem from my book, WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY, where Jack and his grandpa attend a baseball game together in the summer of 1964.

TEAM

A day at the ballpark with Pops
and my two favorite teams feels like
a dream you never want to wake up from.

Four rows behind home plate,
the grass is so green it hurts my eyes.
So much noise, Pops and me
have to yell at each other to be heard.

Smell of hotdogs, warm and
dripping with mustard,
tastes better than any hotdog
I ever ate. Even the seats,
sticky with spilled soda and beer
feel solid under me. Only one thing
would make this one-of-a-kind day better.

A team of three.

Where are you, Dad? Do you remember
our Little League team
that never won a game our first year?
That didn’t stop us from playing hard, so hard
that the second season we were 6-6.

Team work.
Thinking about Jill and her family team
that may not win every game, but they will be together.
Things work out better when
you work together, like we learned
in Little League.

Yankees beat the Red Sox 9-3.

back cover

So, hunker down, make some hotdogs and read about America’s favorite past time.

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

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

pirates stuck cover with tittles

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

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

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

Where did the inspiration come from for this book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does BiblioKid Publishing accept submissions from other authors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CRUSHING THE RED FLOWERS by Jennifer Voigt Kaplan

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

Here’s Jennifer to talk about her book:

Facts about Crushing the Red Flowers

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

COVER - FINAL front

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

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

What are Emil’s and Friedrich’s secrets?

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

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

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

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

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

What are other fun facts about Emil and Friedrich?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the other characters?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1Headshot-Closeup

 

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

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

Here is Darlene’s review of the book:

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

 

 

Children’s Books That Provide Early Halloween Chills, Thrills: By Marilyn Ostermiller

If ghostly capers and heart-stopping high jinks get your juices flowing, here’s a selection of Middle Grade books with nail-biting suspense, chatty ghosts and other, not so sociable apparitions.
Tunnel of Bones, second book in Victoria Schwab’s “City of Ghosts” series.

Tunnel of Bones (City of Ghosts #2) (2)

The plot: Ever since Cassidy Blake almost drowned, she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead . . . and enter the spirit world. When her parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, Cass accidentally awakens a frightening young boy ghost who roams the catacombs under Paris’ streets.

What’s to Like: It’s one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read, but I couldn’t stop reading.

To Learn More: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43411972-tunnel-of-bones

The Mystery of Hollow Inn, first of the Samantha Wolf Mysteries, by Tara Ellis

The Mystery Of Hollow Inn (Samantha Wolf Mysteries Book 1)

The plot: When 12-year-old Samantha arrives in the mountains of Montana, with her best friend, for a summer vacation, they uncover a villainous scheme at Hollow Inn to force Sam’s aunt and uncle out of business.

What’s to Like: It’s set in a mountain retreat so remote there’s no Wi-Fi or cell phone reception. The girls ignore the rules, and suffer the consequences, as they take readers on a fast-paced, contemporary adventure.

Learn More: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21897748-the-mystery-of-hollow-inn

Lilac Skully and the Halloween Moon, third book in  Amy Cesari’s “Supernatural Adventures of Lilac Skully,” series.          Lilac Skully and the Halloween Moon

The Plot: Lilac lives in a haunted mansion with a coterie of ghosts and goblins. Lilac longs for the one normal thing she has never experienced, to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. Where better to experience it than at the Seaside Fun Park with friends, or so she thought until some really scary villains seem intent on making her vanish forever. 

What’s to Like: It’s a tale of a young girl, who’s led such a sheltered life she’s never been introduced to sweets, not even candy corn until now.

Learn More: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42105981-lilac-skully-and-the-halloween-moon

 

Marilyn OstermillerMarilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who enjoys sharing her favorite reads.

 

 

 

All Colors: by Amalia Hoffman

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

cover

In 2017, I started experimenting with pastel pencils.

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

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

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

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

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

So began my book journey for All Colors.

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

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

3 shirt red patch

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

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

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

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

11 brush medium multi patches

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

friends- last page

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

http://www.amaliahoffman.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Authenticity in Historical Fiction: The Final Chapter.

To conclude this year’s series of posts on writing authentically in historical fiction, I am posting this entry that ran on the blog tour I did in 2014 for the launch of my first book WHEELS OF CHANGE. To celebrate the FIFTH ANNIVERSARY of the book’s debut, I am giving away a signed copy of the book, and – if a teacher wins – a free classroom SKYPE visit for the 2019-2020 school year. Leave a comment at the end of the post and let me know what grade you teach.  Curriculum guides and other goodies will be included with the book.

WoCCover01

Authenticity in Historical Fiction

To create authenticity or believability in historical fiction is just like setting a scene in any kind of writing.  The writer needs to pay attention to details. As a reader, I’m more likely to immerse myself in a story universe that is believable and accurate.  If I want readers of WHEELS OF CHANGE to follow Emily Soper’s adventures, they have to be grounded in the reality of 1908 Washington DC.

            What was life like in the Nation’s Capital 100 years ago?

It was very rural for one thing.  With the exception of Pennsylvania Avenue, the area around the train station, and a few streets bordering 7th Street – the main street of commerce – there was only gas lighting and no electricity. Indoor plumbing was still a novelty. Many roads were unpaved or had cobblestones. There were farms and wooded areas surrounding the government buildings. Most people still rode in horse-drawn wagons, carriages, or buggies.  Many goods were still made by hand. Incorporating these details into the story grounds it and fixes the time and place.

Character is another way to create an authentic story. When a story takes place in another era, the writer has to be sure to use language and sentence structure that rings true. In 1908, children spoke in a more formal style, like their parents. Very little slang was used. Children addressed other adults as Mr. or Mrs. and often used “sir” or ‘ma’am” when speaking to their parents.

A character’s actions and behavior was different than it is today. Expectations for males and females were much more divided and specific. Boys had more freedom to explore and be adventurous. They were expected to roughhouse and get into trouble now and then. Girls on the other hand, were expected to be lady-like and exhibit proper behavior at all times. They were encouraged to excel at the “domestic arts” such as sewing, cooking, housekeeping, and child rearing.

Here are some of the “Rules of Etiquette” young people were expected to follow at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

General Rules of Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen

13 Mannerisms to be avoided by all: 

  1. Whispering or pointing in company.
  2. Giving attention to only one person when more are present.
  3. Contradicting parents, friends, or strangers.
  4. Laughing loudly.
  5. Making noise with hands and feet.
  6. Leaning on the shoulder or chair of another.
  7. Throwing things instead of handing them.
  8. Crowding or bumping elbows.
  9. Contempt in looks, words, or actions.
  10. Drawing attention to self with dress.
  11. Lending a borrowed book.
  12. Reading when there is company, or when others are speaking.
  13. Laughing at the mistakes of others.

Manners appropriate for all:

  1. To be gentle and patient with others.
  2. To remember that while speech is wonderful, it is sometimes better to be silent.
  3. Speak with a gentle tone and never in anger.
  4. Learn to deny yourself and put others first.
  5. Give applause only by clapping hands – not by kicking or stamping feet.
  6. Rise to one’s feet when an older person or dignitary enters the room.

 All this makes me wonder: How many of these rules do any of us consider important today?

 

Amalia Hoffman Blasts off With a New Board Book.

Today it is my pleasure to feature Author/Illustrator AMALIA HOFFMAN and her new board book ASTRO PEA. I found the book to be charming and perfect for adventurous toddlers who enjoy exploring outside their own “pods”.

Here is my review of ASTRO PEA:  “Toddlers and young readers will delight at the fanciful adventure of Pete the Pea and what he discovers when he steps outside his pod. This simple board book, and the whimsical illustrations that accompany it, celebrate curiosity and imagination and reminds us that even after a grand adventure, it is good to come home to those we love.” 

thumbnailBlast off with Pete the pea on a cosmic adventure of daring and friendship. Follow Pete whose imagination turns a carrot into a spaceship, an artichoke into a satellite, plain veggies into planets, an ear of corn into a corn-trol shuttle and such more.

A short link to a video of Amalia performing the story:

https://youtu.be/V-sJk2HZ8oU

Book Journey:

In 2017, I started experimenting with pastel pencils.  I loved the textures that I could achieve and the vibrant lush colors. After working for a while on a white background I wondered what the colors would look like on black. So I ordered a fine black art sand paper and fell in love with the way the colors looked on it 

I didn’t really have a project in mind. I was just having fun painting fruits and vegetables. I ended up making a pea pod. The drawing was on my art table and one day I got the idea of doing a story about peas.

I had envisioned a board book where the young child reads a clue and turns the page to see what happened. I think it was the black paper that sprouted the space idea. So then, why not make spaceship? 

I envisioned this little curious protagonist – a pea named Pete who is tired of living in an ordinary pea pod and his imagination takes him on a cosmic adventure. I created a dummy and sent it to my agent, Anna Olswanger.

We worked on the story for a while and I was delighted when Schiffer Publishing acquired it as well as another board book, executed in the same technique, coming up in Fall, 2019.

 

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Amalia Hoffman is an author, illustrator and storyteller. Her board book, Dreidel Day (Lerner/Kar Ben Publishing, 2018) is a PJ Library book and received the PJ Library Author Incentive Award. She is the author/illustrator of two other board books, Astro Pea and All Colors (Schiffer Publishing, 2019.) Amalia is the author of The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero (Capstone Publishing, 2019, illustrated by Chiara Fedele.)

Amalia designed and illustrated an oversized book with pop-up elements for the production of Rose Bud at Israel’s children’s theater, The Train. Other books include The Klezmer Bunch and Purim Goodies (Gefen Publishing House, 2007 and 2009.) The Klezmer Bunch was featured in a play, Jewish Books Cooking by the celebrated choreographer and producer, Elizabeth Swados. She received the SCBWI 2005 award for illustration in the category of Fantasy. Her portfolio was selected as the winning portfolio in the 2014 21st Century Non Fiction Conference.

Amalia performs her stories in schools, libraries and bookstores dressed up in costumes with puppets and props.

 Visit Amalia at www.amaliahoffman.com