Today it is my pleasure to feature author and fellow member of the KidLit Author’s Club, Annette Whipple who has two new non-fiction books that recently debuted. THE STORY OF THE WRIGHT BROTHERS (Rockridge Press) and THE LAURA INGALLS WILDER COMPANION ( Chicago Review Press). Here’s Annette to talk about them:
- Tell a bit about your “work-for-hire” the Wright Brothers and how it came about.
My first five books were all work-for-hire (WFH) projects for the educational market (for schools and libraries). WFH means a publisher’s editorial team comes up with ideas. Then they hire writers to write them. Writers typically introduce themselves to the publisher, and if they’re a good fit AND the time is right, they get an assignment. The Story of the Wright Brothers was a bit different because I had not heard of the publisher (Callisto Media/Rockridge Press) prior to them contacting me. My editor really helped me to develop the story to be one children (and even teachers) would appreciate. The Story of the Wright Brothers will also be found in bookstores instead of just schools and libraries which excites me even more.
For curious writers, I have a whole blog post about the educational market/WFH. I even teach a class about it to help other writers get started. I call WFH the publishing world’s best kept secret. This is the post. https://www.annettewhipple.com/2019/01/writing-for-educational-market.html
2. Laura Ingalls Wilder is the beloved author of The Little House series. Were you a fan as a girl? What is it about the series and author that prompted you to write the bio?
I was a fan of the Little House books as a girl, but I never had my own copies until I was preparing for my first baby. Then I bought the set! I appreciate the stories even more as an adult.
It was my children and a guide to the Chronicles of Narnia who inspired the idea for The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide. Whenever we listened to Little House audio books or I read them aloud, my kids were full of questions. I knew young (and old) fans of the Little House books would enjoy learning more about American pioneers and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I also loved the idea of developing lots of activities for each of the Little House books. I included 75 activities in The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion. I’ve been hearing lots of great feedback about the “Fact or Fiction?” sidebars within the book, too!
3. What draws you to historical non-fiction?
I was never a strong history student, but I love diving deep into my research. As I say when I visit schools, “Facts are fun!” I love exploring science and history especially when I can get hands-on.
4. Was there anything that surprised you about Laura as you did your research? Please share some of your research process.
Long before I officially researched for The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion, I learned more about the real Laura Ingalls Wilder as a fan. For that reason, I don’t think much surprised me. The more I learned about Wilder, the more I appreciated her as a person and as a writer.
I think my biggest surprise was learning that something that had been reported as fact for many, many years was questionable. All of the books I had access to while researching stated Almanzo Wilder’s birthdate as 1857. (Now the book Prairie Fires has explored the discrepancies.) Even his headstone said 1857. So where was the question? It was with three consecutive census records. They indicated Almanzo Wilder was born in 1859. I thought this was interesting and included the evidence as well as my conclusion in the book (and this blog post): https://www.wildercompanion.com/2019/11/when-was-almanzo-wilder-born.html]
5. Why should kids care and learn about the lives of historical figures? What makes LIW still popular?
I think it’s important to learn about people who are different than us. I think historical figures and historical stories can teach us a lot about the past. We can learn history and learn from their successes and mistakes, too!
I think Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House books are still popular today because the family is relatable—though far from perfect. Laura Ingalls Wilder shared about a time in history that many lived through but few experienced. I think her writing talent shows through because the stories still resonate with readers today.
6. Any final thoughts?
Facts are fun, right? Well, the fact that Laura Ingalls Wilder and Wilbur Wright were both born in 1867 interested me! They were both American pioneers—but of two very different kinds. Wilbur and his brother Orville designed and flew the first airplane. Laura Ingalls Wilder lived on the American frontier as a girl. Their childhoods were so different! Wilbur Wright’s home was full of books. Laura Ingalls’s home had few books, but they were treasured. Both families valued education and learning—and it showed in how Wilbur and Laura grew up.
But sometimes facts make us sad or angry. The Ingalls family lived in “Indian Territory” in Wilder’s book Little House on the Prairie. When I researched more about American history and the Native American Osage Nation, many emotions flooded me as I learned more about the fate of that nation and all Native Americans. Though I knew Native Americans had been forced to reservations, I did not understand the depth of it nor the later ramifications of the reservations and the many broken treaties. I included some tough stuff in The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion because Wilder herself wrote about those complicated times. I wanted to help readers better understand the history and consider both sides.
Today we have many tools to help us learn more about people who are different from us and even become friends. Books are just a beginning!
Both of these books help readers connect with history, but in September I have a completely different book coming out. It’s Whooo Knew? The Truth about Owls! It’s full of beautiful photographs and information about magnificent owls. It’s available for pre-order from your local bookstore or online.
I celebrate curiosity and inspire a sense of wonder in readers while exciting them about science and history. I’ve written eight books—and The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press), Whooo Knew? The Truth about Owls (Reycraft Books), and The Story of the Wright Brothers (Rockridge Press) are new in 2020! I love chocolate chip cookies and bake them a bit too often for my husband and three children. I also love to read and enjoy the great outdoors of Pennsylvania where I live. I love to visit schools (even virtually) and help writers of all kinds find the joy in writing. You can get to know me more at www.AnnetteWhipple.com or www.WilderCompanion.com.
Here’s my (Darlene’s) endorsement for THE STORY OF THE WRIGHT BROTHERS:
“An entertaining, informative, and engaging story of the pioneers of aviation. A perfect blend of history and science. Question sidebars, a quiz, and a glossary make this an excellent classroom resource for elementary level students.”
****** If you’d like a chance to win a copy of THE STORY OF THE WRIGHT BROTHERS, leave a comment below sharing some of your favorite recent non-fiction picture books. One winner will be drawn at random from those entered and announced later this month.******