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

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

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

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

Daily Times photo

Other books by Jeffry W. Johnston:

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

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

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

http://www.jeffrywjohnston.com

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Authors and Illustrators and Editors…Oh My:When Creating a Book is a Collaborative Effort + Free PB manuscript critique by PB Author Vivian Kirkfield.

I’ve always been a fan of collaboration. As a kid, I loved getting together with friends to plan a fun project. As a kindergarten teacher, I treasured the contributions from parents who brought a wealth of diversity and talent to school functions. It seemed natural to me that there would be a team effort when a book was created—with input from author, illustrator, and editor. But unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

In theory, the author brings her vision to the story with words. The illustrator adds another layer of vision. But some editors may fear if too much communication is allowed between author and illustrator, the author may try to influence the illustrator to do things her way. Although I understand that point of view, I also believe that there is so much good that can come out of working as a team.

At this point in my writing journey, I have multiple book deals. That is certainly something to cheer about. But it’s also given me the opportunity to experience different publishing processes. The first contract I signed was for SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, May 1, 2019). Sweet Dreams, Sarah: From Slavery to Inventor

I never saw early sketches, there was no collaboration between author and illustrator, and when the color layouts were finally shared with me, there were many changes that needed to be made for historical accuracy. I’m grateful that those changes have been made and the finished product will be stellar, but that is why a book that was signed in November 2015 isn’t launching until May 2019. Happily, for the other two books that also launch next year, there has been a level of collaboration which exceeded even my expectations. 

PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, Feb 5, 2019) began as a Picture Book Idea Month thought back in 2013. cover on amazon

When one of my in-person critique buddies, author/illustrator Jill Weber, saw it at the end of 2017, she fell in love with it and brought it to her long-time editor in NYC who also fell in love with it and bought it on the spot. Jill signed on to illustrate and what followed was pure pleasure for me, although lots of hard work for Jill. She showed me early sketches—I loved each one. She shared early color illustrations—they were fantastic. And when the book dummy was complete, we shared a cup of hot chocolate at our favorite local meeting place while I got to flip through the pages to see Pippa Mouse and all the other characters come to life. Hurray for collaboration! 

When my agent sent FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK to the editor at PomegranateKids, she also sent some sketches from one of her illustrator clients. Essie had a feeling that Mirka Hokkanen’s style would be the perfect match for my lyrical text. And she was spot on right! The editor loved the partnership and signed Mirka to do the illustrations. four otters cover amazon

Mirka and I live 5000 miles apart and can’t meet for hot chocolate, but we were able to connect via Facebook messaging and email. And thank goodness for that, because Mirka, being a conscientious illustrator, did her research before she began drawing (sadly, not every illustrator does that). She uncovered a big problem. All ten of the endangered animals were supposed to inhabit the ecosystem of the Colorado Rockies. “No!” Mirka said. “Not the Golden Cheeked Warbler.” “Yes, it is,” I replied. “It’s found in Colorado Bend State Park!”

Now, wouldn’t you think that Colorado Bend State Park is in Colorado? I certainly did. But no. It’s actually in Texas.

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Thank goodness for Mirka’s attention to detail and for our ability to collaborate. We researched other birds and found the perfect substitute—the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. Of course, we immediately let the editor know why we were making the change and he was totally fine with that. But how much better it was that we made the change before the publisher fact-checked and discovered my incorrect information.

Later in the process, Mirka sent me a sketch of one of the spreads and she questioned why I had peregrine falcon babies in a burrow. “Don’t they live on a high cliff ledge?” she asked. They certainly do, but the ‘bobbing beaks retreating to the borrowed burrow’ referred to the five burrowing owls from the previous spread, not to the six peregrine falcons who were circling overhead. 5 burrowing owls

If Mirka and I were not collaborating, she would have spent a lot of time refining her sketch and perhaps even crafting the block from which she would make the woodcut illustration. Or worse, if I didn’t get to see the book until it was almost ready to ship, expensive changes would have to be made. Hurray for collaboration!

Just a few weeks ago, I got to see the dummy for FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). Illustrator Gilbert Ford had a huge task…nine nonfiction picture book bios in one compilation book. The editor kindly asked me to comment on the PDF, but there was very little for me to say except how much I loved it! And although I haven’t seen any sketches yet for MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020), I’m thrilled with the portfolio of Allenanna Harris, the illustrator who will be bringing that story to life. I know she will do a fabulous job and I look forward to the collaborative effort that will create a wonderful picture book for children.

Although this writing journey can be frustrating at times and disappointing at others, I always feel blessed to be on it. And lucky to have all of you as my traveling companions. I truly believe that we can turn our dreams into reality if we keep moving forward, help one another, and never give up. Our destination is within reach.

Vivian is giving away ONE PICTURE BOOK CRITIQUE to a random person who leaves a comment on this post. All commenters names will be placed in a hat and one winner will be drawn and announced on this blog on Thursday February 7, 2019. If you share this post on Twitter or FB, or reblog it, let me know and I will add your name twice to the hat.

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Vivian Kirkfield’s career path is paved with picture books. She shelved them at the library during her college years. She read them to her students when she taught kindergarten. And she writes them. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House, February 2019); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (PomegranateKids, March 2019); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books, May 2019); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). Vivian lives in the quaint New England village of Amherst, New Hampshire where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite Monopoly partner. You can visit her website at Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Linkedin.

Author Colleen Kosinski Presents Her New MG: A Promise Stitched In Time.

When brainstorming for a new book idea I like to scour the Internet for interesting stories. Many days dawn turns to dusk as I plunge down the rabbit hole of article after article. One day, I came across a snippet from a book called Nazi Chic that mentioned two girls who were imprisoned in the attic of Hedwig Hoess (the wife of the Commandant of Auschwitz) and forced to make clothing for her and her family using fabric from the very clothing that had been stolen from the prisoners of the camp! Nobody knows the girls’ names or what became of them.

With that story in the back of my mind, I was perusing a thrift shop looking for cool vintage clothes. As I examined the garments I started thinking about the clothing’s backstory. Were these once prized possessions of the former owners? Had somebody scrimped and saved to buy this silk dress? Was this retro coat a beloved anniversary gift?

It was then that the two ideas began to merge and that is how the story of A Promise Stitched In Time (Schiffer Publishing 2018) began.

912EbeHM7QL_thumbnailHere is the blurb from the book:

Promises can be hard to keep, but Maggie McConnell is determined to keep the promise she made to her father before he died. She must win a scholarship to a prestigious art program, but her grief gets in the way as she struggles to find her artistic vision. When Maggie purchases an old tweed coat as inspiration, she never guesses this fur-collared coat will forever change the way she views life and her place in it. The coat awakens her muse, but also awakens something else: Maggie believes its previous owner haunts the coat. Dreams and visions give way to clues from the past, and then a Holocaust victim’s tattoo appears on her arm. With the help of a steampunk-dressing school outcast named Taj, Maggie must decipher what the ghost wants her to discover, and in the process find herself.

Darlene asked me to think of five things a reader should know about my main character.

My main character is Maggie McConnell, an Irish Catholic girl from New Jersey.

She has a sister Patty who is ten months older. Some people call this an “Irish twin.” While her sister is outgoing and popular (and a bit bossy), Maggie is quiet and more of an introvert.

Maggie and Patty’s father has been dead for three years, and the story shows how each of the sisters deals with their grief in different ways.

Maggie is a visual artist and throughout the story the reader sees how Maggie relates to the world through “artist’s” eyes.

Maggie grows more confident as the story progresses. She befriends the school outcast, must solve the mystery of the identity of the ghost who haunts her vintage coat, and she even gets her first kiss.

While the themes in this story may be heavy, I try to keep a balance of lightness and some humor for my middle grade audience. What I would like the reader to take away after reading this book is to consider how we treat others and be active in helping those who are being treated unkindly. This is something we all need to remember in these days and times.    

Attention Teachers: a free 42 page downloadable teacher’s guide is available for A Promise Stitched In Time on Colleen’s website!

AuthorPortrait   A Promise Stitched in Time
https://colleenrowankosinski.com/my-books/a-promise-stitched-in-time

LOVE IS KIND:Celebrating Acts of Kindness with Laura Sassi (and a give-away!)

photo promo with text love is kind instagramSince a central theme of LOVE IS KIND is spreading love and kindness, Darlene asked me to reflect on three acts of kindness that have touched me as a picture book author. It’s a delightful topic and one that makes my heart sing with gratitude and joy for the many, many examples of kindness that I have both witnessed and been the recipient of.  However, as I ponder which to choose, one stands out – and it’s one that I’ve for a long time been seeking a way to honor – so I hope that it’s okay, Darlene, that I have chosen just one. It involves the editor of LOVE IS KIND – so it’s really a perfect fit. Zonderkidz editor, Barbara Herndon, edited not just this book, but my first two as well, and she is a remarkable person with a very kind heart. I hope her example will inspire us all to spread love and kindness as the opportunities unfold before us.  
Here’s how this act unfolded:
It was October 2013 and my mother was dying of ALS. Except for labored one or two word bursts, had lost the muscular ability to speak and was growing weaker day by day. One morning as I was praying for my mom – who lived 6 hours away in Virginia – it suddenly struck me that she might not live long enough to see my first book, GOODNIGHT, ARK, published. My mom had been a great encourager to me on this journey into children’s book writing and I’d always appreciated her artistic perspective (she was an artist) as she read and critiqued my manuscripts. She and I had been so excited to learn that Jane Chapman would illustrate, and now, I realized, she might not get the chance to see those illustrations. 
 A wave of sadness poured over me and I emailed my editor, Barbara Herndon, at Zonderkidz, to ask she if she had a sketch or illustration sample or anything that I could share with my mother while she was still able to communicate – even if only in a limited way.  Within the hour, she responded that yes, of course, they could send something  – and not just anything – she had already special ordered two folded galleys of the entire book – and when would I need them by.  
Already feeling blessed beyond measure at this act of kindness, I now added that my sister and I had a special trip planned for mid-October to see our mother – we’d both be swooping in from our faraway homes for a special mother-daughter weekend. It was short notice, but Barbara did not hesitate. She said she would do her very best to make sure they arrived in time for that visit and immediately made arrangements for them to be mailed by overnight express to my parents in Virginia.  
The pictures here show me with my mom and dad opening the package from Barbara and then enjoying the folded galley together. 

Because Barbara responded so quickly and so kindly, my mom was able to enjoy Jane’s illustrations and she even got to communicate her love for the illustrations with Jane via a short email. Then, Jane – in her own act of kindness – sweetly responded to my mother’s thoughtful artistic reflections about Janes’ illustrations.  

It was a very special shared moment made possible by a compassionate editor who responded above and beyond the call of duty to make something special happen for a dying woman (my mom) and her daughter (me). I will forever be grateful for that act of kindness and it came just in the nick of time. My mom passed away a month later – and that trip with those folded-galleys turned out to be our last -and very treasured – time together. 
 
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Zonderkidz has offered to give one copy of LOVE IS KIND to one reader of this post. To qualify, you must be a U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box) and at least 18 years old to enter. Leave a comment describing an act of kindness you were the recipient of.  One name will be drawn at random from all who entered.
Darlene here:  LOVE IS KIND is a beautiful story that is destined to become a classic.  Here is my review of this special book:

Owl takes the coins he’s saved to buy his beloved grammy a box of chocolates for her birthday. When he drops the coins, and they are picked up by beaver, Owl sees how happy beaver is and doesn’t ask for the coins back.  Owl has other opportunities to buy the chocolates, but things happen along the way and Owl returns to grammy feeling sad because he has nothing to give her for her birthday. After he tells grammy  what happened, she reminds Owl of all the love he spread everywhere he went and how that was the best gift a grammy ever got.

Based on LOVE as described in 1 Corinthians 13, this heart-warming story of kindness celebrates the love between kids and their grandparents. The sweet and delightful illustrations remind readers of all the ways we express Love. A rare treat and the perfect gift for parents and grandparents to share with their little “Owls”.

BIO: Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme.  A graduate of Princeton University and UCLA, she had a successful teaching career before becoming a children’s author. She is the author of four picture books including the best-selling GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) which was a Christian Book Award Finalist, GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) which was featured on BBC’s Cbeebies Bedtime Stories, and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018).  She lives in
New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.

Laura Sassi with Sunflowers.jpg
Laura Sassi
Children’s book author and poet
GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, August ’14)
GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, October ’15)
DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, Spring ’18)
LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, Fall  ’18)

twitter.com/laurasassitales

Picture Book Author Robin Newman Presents: Squawking with Jim, the Peacock + Book Give-away.

Today it is my pleasure to be a stop on the blog tour for PB author Robin Newman’s newest book NO PEACOCKS which is illustrated by CHRIS EWALD (Sky Pony Press). I’ve got the inside scoop from none other than Jim, resident peacock.

NP_Cover_FINAL

Every day Phil, Jim, and Harry are fed sunflower seeds by the staff who care
 for them at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But one day, they decide they’re sick of seeds. They make a break for the New York City streets in search of pizza or Chinese takeout. But everywhere they go, they’re told “No peacocks!”

So, they try to get an ooey, gooey, delicious meal closer to home. But 
how are they going to sneak into The Cathedral School’s dining hall and get their wings on the school’s world-famous mac ’n cheese? A little plotting, some stolen disguises, and help from the students, and the mission is a go!

Will the peacocks get their mac n cheese? Or will their cover be blown, forcing them to fly the coop? This fictional feathered tale was inspired by the real-life beloved celebrity birds living on the grounds of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

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DBJ: Jim, you are the first peacock I’ve ever interviewed.

Jim: It’s funny but you’re not the first person to say that to me.

DBJ: Just a bit of background for my blog readers. You and your brothers, Phil and Harry, live on the grounds of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on 112th St. and Amsterdam Avenue in New York.

Jim: That’s right! Harry and I have been around since about 2002. Phil came later.

DBJ: I couldn’t help but notice that you and Harry are the traditional blue-green peacocks while Phil has white feathers.

Jim: Phil is a leucistic white peafowl. Everyone seems to think it’s a big deal (especially Phil!) and tourists are always trying to snap his picture but personally I don’t see the appeal.

DBJ: Is there a way to tell you and Harry apart?

Jim: Ask any of the children. Each one seems to have a foolproof system for telling us apart. Say, are you going to eat those almonds?  All I had for breakfast were some sunflower seeds. And those pesky neighborhood pigeons kept pecking at my food.

DBJ: You poor bird. Please take the entire bag.

Jim: Thanks!

DBJ: Speaking of food, I hear that there’s a new book about the three of you focused on food.

Jim: No Peacocks! A Feathered Tale of Three Mischievous Foodies, by Robin Newman and illustrated by Chris Ewald. It flies onto bookshelves September 4th.

DBJ: Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Jim: It’s about pizza and baked goods.

DBJ: Anything else?

Jim: Our quest to try the world’s best mac ‘n cheese.

DBJ: And?

Jim: I don’t want to spoil the plot (or your appetite). You’ll have to read the book.

DBJ: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Jim: If you read the book, and like the book, please leave a review. Also, please come by and say hello. You can even check out our fancy new coop. The New York Times wrote an article about it.   You can see the article at the end of this post.

 DBJ: Thanks, Jim!

Jim: Wait! I forgot to mention. Harry is stopping by Patricia Tilton’s blog, Children’s Books Heal, on September 7.  https://childrensbooksheal.com

Oh, and we’ll be looking for you at our BOOK SIGNING tonight! Be sure to stop by, we’ll be serving our favorite food (hint…it’s cheese)

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Robin Newman was a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she now prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs, and peacocks. She is the author of the Wilcox & Griswold Mystery Series, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake and The Case of the Poached Egg, as well the picture book, Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep, illustrated by Chris Ewald. She lives in New York with her husband, son, goldfish, and two spoiled English Cocker Spaniels, who are extremely fond of Phil, Jim and Harry.

Website: www.robinnewmanbooks.com

Twitter: @robinnewmanbook

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RobinNewmanBooks/339179099505049

Robin is giving away a signed copy of her book to a random person who leaves a comment on this post.  If you share the post on social media, I’ll put your name in the hat twice. The winner will be announced on WEDNESDAY 9-19 on this blog.

PB Author/Illustrator Barbara DiLorenzo Presents – QUINCY:The Chameleon Who Couldn’t Blend In.

I recently had the pleasure of reading a new PB by one of my favorite author/illustrators Barbara DiLorenzo, QUINCY:The Chameleon Who Couldn’t Blend In.

Here’s my review of this delightful story that makes a perfect read aloud for young children worrying about how they’ll do on their first day of school:

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QUINCY THE CHAMELEON WHO COULDN’T BLEND IN by Barbara DiLorenzo (Little Bee Books 2018) is a sweet and delightful picture book about a chameleon who wants to like school and tries hard to blend in.  But, unlike other chameleons, Quincy can’t hide his thoughts or feelings. Everything he thinks about or gets excited about shows up on his skin.  It isn’t until he discovers art class, where self-expression is expected, that he realizes he can be happy just being himself.

The illustrations add whimsy and humor to a story that readers of all ages will find themselves reading over and over again. Quincy is destined to become a new classroom favorite.

     Barbara DiLorenzo is the author/illustrator of RENATO AND THE LION (2017) and QUINCY THE CHAMELEON WHO COULDN’T BLEND IN (2018).  She is an art teacher at the Arts Council in Princeton, NJ and lives in New Jersey with her family and her active imagination.

RENATO AND THE LION (Viking Children’s Books)
QUINCY: The Chameleon Who Couldn’t Blend In (Little Bee Books)

Represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency 
Co-President of the Children’s Book Illustrators Group (CBIG)
Instructor & Outreach Program Coordinator for the Arts Council of Princeton
Co-Assistant Regional Manager for New Jersey SCBWI

Laurie Wallmark Presents: STEM books with Curriculum Guides for Teachers.

Looking for great STEM books to use in the classroom?  Check out these gems from Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark.

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine are picture book biographies of computer science pioneers. These book and the associated teacher guide activities are appropriate for grades K-5.

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling, 2017) by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu

 

 

http://www.lauriewallmark.com/resources/Grace%20Hopper%20guide.pdf

 

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark and April Chu

http://www.lauriewallmark.com/resources/Ada%20Lovelace%20guide.pdf

 

www.lauriewallmark.com

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark’s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, 2015), received four starred trade reviews (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal) and many national awards including Outstanding Science Trade Book and Cook Prize Honor Book. Her latest picture book biography, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling Children’s Books, 2017), earned a Kirkus star and is on several public library’s best of lists. Laurie has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. When not writing, she teaches computer science at Raritan Valley Community College.