Tuesday, July 5, 2022

FOOTPRINTS ACROSS THE PLANET: A Nonfiction Picture Book Review and Giveaway

 What do you think of when you hear the word, "footprint"? If your name is Jennifer Swanson, then it means many things. This simple yet eloquent text is accompanied by amazing photographs which convey that definition onto every page. 

Take a peek at Footprints Across the Planet  (Reycraft Books, August 2022) and discover some amazing footprints.

REVIEW

The book opens with two pictures: the bottom of an elephant's foot and a scrawny two-toed bird. The text reads simply, "Footprints come in all shapes and sizes, colors and species."


Then there are two pages of contrasts:







Footprints can appear very different--and some are hardly noticeable at all.




FOOTPRINTS then transitions from animals to humans.



More contrasts emerge. What does a footprint on a snow-covered mountain look like? How about a "footprint" under the sea? What footprints last? Which are gone as soon as they are made?

What type of footprints show us our past? What might show us our future?




Some footprints represent people who have worked for change in our society. Other people follow in their footprints. 

For better or for worse, digital footprints are now a part of our past, present, and future.




Footprints "remind us that our way of living impacts everything around us."

And footprints are "traces of ourselves." 






This picture book reads like a poem. No wonder! In a Facebook conversation, Jen said, "I had this title for awhile. There were different manuscripts with it. But when the March for Science, the Women’s March, and the Black Lives Matter marches took place, this manuscript was born. It actually wrote itself in my head one when while I was on a bike ride. I had to keep stopping and texting the lines to myself."

Her comment about the marches made me think about the book's layers. She agreed. "There are many layers. All the animals I used are endangered. There are many questions which hopefully evoke curiosity and the need to learn more."

CURRICULUM RESOURCE


This STEM book can be used in many w
ays. Here are some questions educators can tailor to their K-3rd grade classrooms.

  • What is a footprint? List some of the ways that concept is shown in this book.
  • Teachers/home educators could discuss what a student's footprint is. How do their ideas compare with the author's intent about the word's meaning.
  • "Compare" and "contrast" different footprints.
  • Students could try writing a poem about footprints. 
  • What is a digital footprint? 

FOOTPRINTS ACROSS THE PLANET is released in August. Authors appreciate it when readers preorder their books. You can find a variety of vendors on Jennifer's website.

GIVEAWAY

To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment by July 9 with your name and email address if you are new to my blog. Mention that you are an educator or librarian and I'll put your name in twice. U.S. addresses only. If you prefer, send me an email and I'll enter your name that way. NOTE: If you don't see your comment immediately, don't worry. I need to screen all comments and then publish them. 


Wednesday, June 29, 2022

GIRL ON FIRE: A Graphic Novel Review by Guest Blogger, Elliott Kurta


Written by a Grammy-winning musician, Girl on Fire is Alicia Keys’ latest project. Aimed at mature middle-schoolers, this graphic novel is a good book for easing students into heavier reading with more complex themes. The book is illustrated by Brittney Williams

            Girl on Fire stars Lolo Wright, a Black girl who lives in the Monroe Housing Projects. Lolo thinks she’s normal, albeit smarter than all her classmates, until a police officer assaults her brother. Before even Lolo knows what she’s doing, the police officer is floating above the ground. Lolo discovers she has the ability to lift and manipulate objects, including people. Soon, she’s bombarded with visions of a classmate and former friend, Michael Warner. As Lolo and her family come to terms with her new powers, a powerful drug dealer, Skin, tries to enlist Lolo so that he can use her abilities. Michael has already started working for Skin, and he’s put in charge of bullying Lolo’s family so that Lolo will fall in line with Skin’s orders. With so many variables, Lolo knows that it’s up to her to make sure that her family and friends are protected. Will she succeed in keeping her family safe, or will the pressure be too much for her?

            Although there are some redeeming qualities to this book, for the most part, it reads like a bad publicity stunt. Each chapter, and even the title of the book, all share names with an Alicia Keys song. The book even ends with a verse from the song Girl on Fire. Aside from the branding involved in her book, Alicia Keys also creates a plot that both overwhelms and leaves something to be desired. Lolo Wright is a normal girl who’s trying to make a better life for herself. While battling drug dealers. And handling her new superpowers. And dealing with the sudden reappearance of her mother. In between standing up for herself to the school bullies and realizing it’s okay to be smart and confident in yourself. Plus, she has a love interest, as does her brother. Even with all of these concurrent plot lines, the ending is a bit of a Deus Ex Machina, and Lolo doesn’t progress much as a character. Various themes are introduced, then dropped, leaving many questions to be answered. For example, Lolo’s connection with Michael is never fully explained. There are also various disposable characters that serve no real purpose other than to add “depth” to the story.

            Even though this novel is written for middle schoolers, this graphic novel is an awfully graphic novel. There are drug dealers, murders, various explosions, and four near-death experiences. Lolo Wright and her family, especially her brother and father, go through a lot of bad experiences over the course of the book. High schoolers might be better suited to this book, or at least rising high schoolers.

            Plot holes aside, Girl on Fire ultimately tells a story of perseverance. Lolo Wright stands her ground and sticks to her morals and earns the ending she deserves. The theme of this book is to push through and do things the right way, even if that takes more time and effort. Even with the darker and less appropriate elements found in this story, the message behind it all is moving and empowering. And although readers may be consistently left a bit confused, they’ll certainly be able to relate to the characters in the story. Lolo and her friends and family all have realistic dialogue that stays appropriate for the ages of their characters. Lolo’s self-consciousness, her father’s values, and her friend Nia’s peppy attitude all shine through their words and actions.

            In conclusion, Girl on Fire has its share of flaws, but behind it all is a moving story. The novel is ridden with drug dealers and violence, but part of what makes this novel so graphic is the realistic characters and what befalls them. For mature Alicia Keys fans, Girl on Fire is a good introduction to darker themes for rising high schoolers. The illustrations in this book will draw readers in, but the realistic topics and characters will be what hook them.




Elliott is a prolific reader of various genres 

who is more than happy to share his opinions on books.
 In his free time, he enjoys writing, reading, and running. 
He is a 9th-grade student in Charlotte, NC. 



Don't forget to check out Greg Partridge's Always in the Middle blog on Monday with lots more MG books!


Congratulations to Connie Saunders who won MY HANDS TELL A STORY. 



Saturday, June 25, 2022

BLUE WILLOW: A Book that Lillie and Kate Read-- Part II and Insight into Revision

 Back in 2014, I posted this:

As some of my faithful blog readers know, my story includes Lillie and Kate uncovering a china cup that belongs to both their families. Over the process of writing Half-Truths, I've played with different china patterns. My friend and writing mentor, Joyce Moyer Hostetter, suggested the popular Blue Willow pattern. When I posted this picture on Facebook, several friends commented about their grandmothers' collections. 


Becky Levine and Joyce chimed in that I really needed to read the book, Blue Willow, which they remembered from their own childhoods. After reading it I realized I'd found a book that both girls would have enjoyed and a story that could provide a rich subtext for Half-Truths.


Winner of the Newbery Honor in 1941, Blue Willow recounts the story of a family shaped by the Great Depression. Ten-year-old Janey Larkin longs for a permanent home for herself and for her most beloved possession, a blue willow china plate that belonged to her great-great-grandmother. Her father is an itinerant farm worker who struggles to support Janey and her stepmother.  When the family moves from one farm to another, the plate goes with them but stays packed away. "…never, Mrs. Larkin had declared long ago, would it be put out as a household ornament until they had a decent home in which to display it. In the meantime, it was kept sadly tucked away, a reminder of happier days before its owners had become wanderers in search of a livelihood." (p. 23)

Because the plate had belonged to Janey's mother, it had become a part of her memories that were mixed up with "Mother Goose rhymes and gay laughter and a home of their own.  And because the willow plate had once been a part of all this, it had seemed actually to become these things to Janey. It was the hub of her universe, a solid rock in the midst of shifting sands." (p.23)

That draft was from both girls' POVs. As I wrote in 2017, I returned to writing from Kate's POV alone.  In the current draft, Blue Willow china is still an important link between the girls. But my young beta readers and Deborah Halverson said that the china did not clearly reveal how the girls were related. If more than one reader has a problem with something in my manuscript--I need to fix it!

So, how to tackle this? I did some brainstorming and side writing. I started a new document and recorded every time I mentioned the china. That helped me to see the gaps where Blue Willow fell off the story radar and where I needed to build more connections between the china and the characters. 

I found several places where I could add internalization and dialogue showing Kate's assumptions and false conclusions. It was like figuring out where the puzzle pieces should fit. By the time I had worked through this brainstorming exercise, Blue Willow had gained more importance in the story. In the end, the girls discover how the china is the clue that solves their ancestry mystery.

This blog took a few hours to write. Inserting more information about the china connection took many more; it is just one of the story threads I am deepening in Half-Truths.

And that my friends, is what re-vision is all about. 

By the way, during a recent visit to Joyce's house, I ate from Blue Willow,


and discovered that the pattern adorns other things besides plates!




Do you have a favorite revision story? Or, maybe you enjoy Blue Willow too. Please share in the comments!






Wednesday, June 22, 2022

MY HANDS TELL A STORY: A Picture Book Review, Giveaway, and Mini-Author Interview

 When I saw on Facebook that Kelly Starling Lyons  had a new picture book out with Reycraft Books, I knew I had to review it here. My Hands Tell a Story is a lovely lyrical book with wonderful illustrations by Tonya Engel.


REVIEW

Zoe is spending the day baking with her grandmother. After washing her hands (a prerequisite in my kitchen too!) Zoe observes that her grandmother's hands tell a story. As the two of them mix the dough and then push and pull it, Zoe discovers more about her grandmother's life--and more about herself. 



Her grandmother places her hands over Zoe's and together they push and pull the dough. While the dough rises, Zoe realizes that her grandmother's hands tell stories about who she is.




Zoe hears about her Grandmother's dreams to be a dancer. She imagines her "...leaping through time and space. Her fingers are branches, stretching toward the sky." Zoe hears about how her grandparents planted seeds that eventually became delicious food that was served at their table. And Zoe wonders if one day her hands will grow something too.

They check the dough, flatten it, add a dusting of cinnamon sugar, roll it up, cover it with a cloth and wait for it to rise again.

The two go outside for some air and then there is this beautiful pause in the story. "I hear murmurs of her hands, flowing and dancing, praying and planting, stroking my hair when she thinks I'm asleep."



But suddenly, something happens!





The bread goes into the oven and Zoe thinks about the power in her hands to "turn pages, color, and create."

When the two of them eat a chunk of delicious cinnamon bread, they slap their hands together. Her grandmother observes that Zoe's hands are just like hers. "Our fingers are long and skinny. Sweet brown like sugar. Made for holding and reaching."


Zoe goes home and starts typing on her computer. "The words fly out like they're sailing on a breeze."

Here is Zoe's lovely conclusion. "My hands tell a story if you listen."


And here's the trailer:


I love a story that connects generations and this one does exactly that. MY HANDS TELL A STORY oozes love and will be enjoyed by many grandparents, parents, teachers, and children.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

I asked Kelly about her inspiration for the book and the backstory behind it. This is what she told me:

I was inspired by baking with my grandma. As a child, being in the kitchen with her was one of my favorite places to be. I loved the way she could eyeball ingredients and know just how much to include and how her hands moved with such grace and confidence. I thought a lot about her hands as I grew older. They had character and were full of memories. She worked in a steel mill, nurtured plants in a greenhouse, fed the housed, voted for change, cradled her kids, my brothers, cousins, and me, and baked and baked, feeding our stomachs and our souls. Her tradition is one that lives on in my family. Looking at her hands as a child I wondered what mine would do one day. Just like Zoe in My Hands Tell a Story, I discovered the power in my hands through writing. 


GIVEAWAY

If you'd like a chance to win this book, please leave me your name and email address (if you are new to my blog) or email me. The giveaway ends June 28. If you follow my blog or become a new follower, let me know and I'll put your name in twice. U.S. addresses only. 

Congratulations to Danielle Hammelef who won GRACE BANKER AND HER HELLO GIRLS.



Thursday, June 16, 2022

GRACE BANKER AND HER HELLO GIRLS ANSWER THE CALL- Part II. Author & Illustrator Interviews + Giveaway

 Last week I introduced you to Claudia Friddell's book, Grace Banker and Her Hello Girls. Today you're going behind the scenes on the story as well as learn interesting tidbits about the illustration process from the illustrator, Elizabeth Baddeley.  There is one thing that all of the nonfiction authors I have interviewed have in common: curiosity. Claudia's backstory is a great example of that!

AUTHOR INTERVIEW



CAROL: I understand that reading the book, The Hello Girlswas what prompted you to write this picture book. But what led you to that book? 

CLAUDIA: I found Elizabeth Cobb’s book when I was researching the story of Thomas Edison making up the word ‘hello’ to use as a telephone greeting. Elizabeth’s book The Hello Girls popped up and the blurb intrigued me so I preordered it. As soon as I got it, I read it in two sittings and was completely captivated by these remarkable women and their pioneering contributions to the military and our country which were unrecognized for 60 years. I thought Grace Banker was an inspiring leader and role model for kids today, so I decided to make her the subject of my kid-friendly version of the Hello Girls’ story. 


CAROL: Was it difficult tracking down Elizabeth Cobbs?

CLAUDIAI thought it might be tricky to connect with Elizabeth, but I very much wanted her to be my expert if she was willing. It was not difficult to find her academic email address so I wrote her. She was incredibly gracious and helpful. When I spoke to her on the phone she invited me to join her in Washington DC for the screening of Jim Theres’ award-winning documentary, also called The Hello Girls. (I recommend everyone see it.  It’s fabulous!) There, I did not only meet Elizabeth and Jim, but I connected with Grace Banker’s niece, Carolyn Timbie, who was an invaluable contributor for my book. She shared Grace’s treasure chest of WWI mementos as well as Grace’s personal diary which I incorporated into my text. 

Carolyn invited me to her family’s lake cabin that her grandmother Grace and her grandfather built before Carolyn was born. There, at the same table where Grace sat, I found so many treasures—one of which was the faded handwritten Soldier’s Poem that is included in the back matter. I think that’s proof enough that the male soldiers considered these female telephone operators who enabled battlefield communications to be US soldiers as well!




As an aside and shout out to the importance of research—a nonfiction author’s treasure hunt—while I was researching Edison’s ‘hello’ story, I not only found the Hello Girls’ story, but I also learned about the camping trips of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford that pioneered recreational camping. You never know what treasures you’ll find when you dig into history!

CAROL: That is so amazing and so true!

By the way, Claudia's next book from Calkins Creek (releasing in October) is Road Trip: Camping with the Four Vagabonds: Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs!


ILLUSTRATOR INTERVIEW


CAROL: What medium did you use?

ELIZABETHThe medium is a combination of acrylic paint and ink drawings that I composited in Photoshop and added more color to.

CAROL: It seemed like there is a patriotic color theme going on. Am I right?

ELIZABETH: The red-white-blue theme was not intentional. I did intentionally use blue because the uniforms were a dark navy. As for the red, I just like it and tend to use it a lot! 



Here are some notes about Elizabeth's research from the Artist's Note which is part of the Back Matter.

As it so happens, I live in Kansas City, Missouri--the home of the National World War I Museum and Memorial. When I first began working on this book, I paid a visit to the museum. They have everything you could possibly want to see related to WWI, but most importantly for me, Grace Banker's actual uniform and helmet! I was able to sit and draw her uniform standing right in front of me...I looked at photographs, postcards, and even diary entries before ever putting pencil to paper. I love to be creative and have fun getting messy with ink and paint, but the real work always starts with the research.

GIVEAWAY

Leave me a comment by June 20 to enter this giveaway. If you haven't already left a comment on the first blog, do so now and you'll have two chances! If you prefer, email me at cbaldwin6@me.com. U.S. addresses only. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

GRACE BANKER AND HER HELLO GIRLS ANSWER THE CALL Part I- A Review and Informational Picture Book Giveaway

Claudia Friddell is no stranger to my blog. A year ago I featured her book, Saving Lady Liberty: Joseph Pulitzer Fight for the Statue of Liberty. Today I have another fantastic informational picture book, Grace Banker and Her Hello Girls (Calkins Creek, 2021). In Part II Claudia and illustrator Elizabeth Baddeley provide the back story to this glimpse into the women who served behind the scenes in World War I. 



REVIEW

Drawing upon Grace's diaries and interviews, the story opens in December 1917 with Grace reading how the commander of the U.S. troops in Europe was issuing a call for female telephone operators. 

That was not the only way that women were called to help with the war effort,

but it was the one Grace acted on.

As a telephone operator, she had the skills and she also knew French and English. But, women had never been allowed in the army.


Grace was thrilled not only to be accepted into the Signal Corps, but she was named the chief operator of the first group of thirty-seven women to go overseas. After two months of drills and classes, the Signal Corps Girls headed to France on board the troop ship Celtic.



By U.S. Navy photo NH 912, Public Domain,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8664455 

The minute the Signal Corps Girls started plugging in cords and connecting calls at General Pershing's headquarters in France, calls poured in from homesick doughboys missing the voices of their mothers, sisters, wives, and sweethearts.

Grace loved her busy twenty-four-hour days. She wrote in her journal, "Never spent more time at the office and never enjoyed anything more. My girls work like beavers."

When General Pershing moved his headquarters to the front, Grace and her girls followed--with gas masks and helmets hanging from their chairs. Grace was almost hit by shrapnel but nothing kept the women from making sure that every call was connected. "Any missed command could lose the battle."

At one point General Pershing moved the unit to a top-secret location. 

Like the conductor of an orchestra, Grace directed her girls from the top of a crate. With fingers flying over the fighting lines' switchboards, the operators barely noticed the bitter winds or leaky barracks.


When a fire broke out in the barracks, the girls wouldn't leave their posts. Only when they were threatened with court-martial did they leave their switchboards!

Finally, on November 11, 1918, a captain of the Signal Courts picked up Grace's phone and made an urgent call--


On May 22, 1919 Grace was the first woman soldier to receive the U.S. Army's Distinguished Service Medal. She wrote in her journal:

There are many who saw far more service than I, and many who earned medals even if they did not receive them. Mine I consider as a tribute to the girls who worked under me at the First Army and to the Signal Corps men operators scattered throughout the tiny tiny field offices. 

BACK MATTER

Seven pages of back matter include a timeline, the fight to obtain full veteran's benefits for the operators, relevant statistics, information on how a switchboard worked, an extended bibliography and interesting artist's notes. There's no question that this book is an excellent curriculum resource for 1st-3rd graders. 

Come back next week to read about how Claudia obtained this amazing story and more information on Elizabeth's process of researching and creating the illustrations.

GIVEAWAY

Leave me a comment along with your email address and I'll enter your name once. Leave a second comment on Part II and you'll be in twice. U.S. addresses only. If you prefer, send me an email to enter. 



Wednesday, June 8, 2022

JENNIFER CHAN IS NOT ALONE-- A Book Review by Guest Blogger, Elliot Kurta

When I read Greg Pattridge's review of Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone, I recognized a book that Elliott, my teen guest blogger, would probably enjoy. As you'll see in his review, I was correct.

                        


Combining aliens, middle school, and bullying, Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone by Tae Keller is an insightful book with an important message for tweens. Overall, the book handles uncharacteristically mature themes, such as bullying, being true to yourself, and making up for past misdeeds. However, this isn’t to say that the target audience won’t be able to understand or acknowledge them. Instead, Jennifer Chan is refreshingly honest while still relatable.

Mallory is the first student at Gibbons Academy to meet the new girl, Jennifer Chan. Over the summer, Mallory is drawn to Jennifer’s self-confidence and earnestness, and the two of them become friends. But once school starts, Mallory is reminded that just being yourself isn’t cool, and if she wants to stay popular she’s going to need to start acting the part. Jennifer, on the other hand, is having even more trouble fitting in. She’s made fun of for believing in aliens, copying the other girls’ haircuts, and being… well, different. As the school year is ending, Mallory and her friends decide that Jennifer needs to be put in her place, for once and for all. The next day, Jennifer has disappeared, and Mallory knows that there are only two possible explanations. Either she was abducted by aliens, or she ran away because of Mallory.

With each chapter, and alternating between the past and the present, Mallory unravels the truth. Using help from two old friends, she reads Jennifer’s journals and retraces Jennifer’s path the day she disappeared. However, finding Jennifer leads to a revelation that Mallory doesn’t want to accept. Unless Mallory can make amends and acknowledge her mistakes, the only lead as to where Jennifer might be will disappear.

Bringing to light what it’s like to be a bully—and what it’s like to be bullied—in middle school, Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone is packed with emotion. Mallory, both the hero and villain of this story, is unsettlingly relatable, even as she balances peer pressure and her conflicting emotions. Unlike many young protagonists, Mallory’s age is apparent, even as she struggles to bear the guilt of her actions and tries to repair her mistakes. Although the entire book is narrated from Mallory’s point of view, each chapter ends with one of Jennifer Chan’s journal entries, giving a better perspective on the eponymous character’s life and personality. Additionally, Mallory is just one of many remarkable characters, including WASPish Reagan, analytical Ingrid, and arrogant yet persuasive Pete.

Even though this middle-school novel might seem unrealistic, Tae Keller stays well within the realm of possibility. Although aliens and their existence, or lack thereof, are a central part of the book, they’re not presented in a polarizing way, but instead with a “maybe” and a shrug. By the final page, however, the surprise ending is revealed, with a conclusion that’s equally informative and open-ended. With a message of accepting and being kind to others, Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone is perfect for today’s modern society; especially since peer pressure and cyberbullying can make kids feel lonelier than ever.

One of the reasons why Tae Keller was able to write such a compelling story has to do with her background. Despite the scenes throughout the book, the most touching pages have to be the afterword. Tae Keller reveals that she was bullied during middle school and that this book is the cumulation of her journey of self-healing.

In conclusion, Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone is a stunning, multilayered book with an important message for pre-teens everywhere. Every aspect of this book is soaked with meaning—even the title—which hints at Jennifer Chan’s belief in aliens and her own subsequent alienation. Written for anyone who’s ever felt conflicted between the right or wrong thing, or for anyone who’s ever been bullied, Jennifer Chan will take you on a tumultuous, heart-wrenching journey.

                                                        


If you're not familiar with Greg's great blog, please check out his Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts.





Saturday, June 4, 2022

The Next Step: The Editorial Letter

A few weeks ago I posted my You're Almost in Labor! blog. I shared that the next step in my publishing journey was engaging Deborah Halverson to help get my "baby" ready to send to agents and/or publishers. 

As I waited for her feedback and editorial letter, I got nervous. What if she didn't like HALF-TRUTHS? Or worse, what if she liked the concept but suggested a major overhaul? I've been there a few times and didn't want to go back. 

When I told Deborah how I felt, she tried to reassure me. "Don’t feel worried. It’s a great story. My job is to help it to its best incarnation, so readers can get the most enjoyment from it. This is about moving it forward!"

My good friend Linda Phillips tried to reason with me. "You want Deborah to be tough; that’s what you paid her for, and it will only make it better.  And since this is a one-time deal, you want her to give you as many suggestions as possible and then you can spend the time making the corrections.

I knew Linda was right and I reread Deborah's email a few times. But still, "what if's" plagued me the whole night before I anticipated receiving Deborah's letter. I literally tossed and turned that night in bed.

But guess what? The next day, when I received Deborah's editorial letter, I teared up. Deborah not only deeply understood what I was trying to accomplish, but she also called my characters sweet and said it was easy to root for their dreams and for their friendship! 

As I read through her letter I knew that every single one of her points were what she had promised--editorial suggestions that would move Half-Truths forward. 


That night I couldn't sleep because I was so excited that her suggestions were ones I could implement!!

Some of you are readers and curious about the steps involved in writing and publishing a book. Others of you are also writers. For both groups of blog readers, I thought I'd share some of Deborah's points that resonated with me. 

First point:

  • This story is Katie’s first-person POV narration. The narrative sensibility absolutely feels like a thirteen-year-old. That is, her level of wisdom, her manner of viewing the world, the things she cares about, and the way she evaluates others’ needs and motives all feel right for someone her age. My concern is that sometimes the language and phrasing feel a bit too sophisticated, sounding “adulty.” 

I was happy to hear that the way Kate sees the world was consistent for a thirteen-year-old. But when I started looking through the manuscript, I was surprised at the many examples of "adulty" language that Deborah found! Descriptions like "grim eyes" or "his furrowed brow" or an action like, "I inhale a whiff of lavender" all take readers out of a young teen's POV. It'll be fun to track down these words and translate them into more teen-like vocabulary. 

Second point:

One of the things I'd included in the manuscript were Kate's poems. For me, they were exercises in getting more in touch with Kate's thoughts and emotions. They had been my side writing technique, as Mary Jane Nirdlinger wrote about in a recent Carolinas-SCBWI blog. But as Deborah observed, 

  • Katie doesn’t read poetry. She doesn’t talk about poetry. She doesn’t talk about the world like a poet, and doesn’t talk about becoming a professional poet. She talks about the world like a reporter, and wants to become a professional reporter. She reads newspapers. The books she does read are novels, not poetry collections. In my estimation, the poetry and journalism elements don’t sync. Simply put, I don’t see the point for the poetry.
When I wailed to Linda that I didn't know how I could take out my beloved poems, Linda (who IS a poet and wasn't impressed with my poems but was too nice to say that) excitedly pointed out ways in which those poems could be recycled as narrative or -- maybe even articles which Kate writes. Stay tuned. 

Third Point:

I was concerned I didn't have enough stakes in the story. In a stroke of genius, Deborah showed me how to empower Kate, give her more skin in the game, and solve a sub-plot point problem. Sorry, I don't have a quote to substantiate this third point. As they say, you'll have to read the book!

Deborah made several other observations which will strengthen the story. By the time you get to hold HALF-TRUTHS in your hand (as so many of you said you wanted to do-thank you!) those changes (and others) will be integrated into the final product. 

I appreciate sharing my story-behind-my story with all of you. As Elliot Kurta said after I sent him the editorial letter, "Writing a book is a complicated business!"

                                                    ****
Congratulations to Janet Sheets who won SOUNDS ALL AROUND. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

SOUNDS ALL AROUND: A Nonfiction Picture Book and Giveaway

 


Sounds All Around: The Science of How Sound Works  (Kids Can Press, 2021) written by Susan Hughes and illustrated by Ellen Rooney, is exactly what the title says it is: an accessible STEM book for young readers about the science of sound. An unnamed protagonist and his dog guide the reader through the book.

Here is the opening page: 



 A honeybee!

                               Such a tiny insect, but its 

                    beating wings make a big

sound in the silence.


(I love the alliteration and thought behind that last sentence!)

Using thunder and lightning as an example, the author goes on to explain how light travels through air faster than sound. 

From there, it's a hop, skip, and a jump from "natural" sounds to


The author moves on to easy-to-understand text (with great accompanying illustrations) on how sound happens.





There are several "try this" pages including one on clapping that introduces vibrations, sound waves, and the concept of pitches. 



 


This illustration says so much:



Information and this illustration about hearing ranges will be a great asset in the K-3rd grade classroom.


In the same way, the author and illustrator explain and illustrate decibels.


Back matter includes instructions on how to make a bee buzzer and a glossary.


GIVEAWAY

Leave me a comment with your email address (or send me an email with that information) by June 4 to enter this giveaway. If you are a teacher, home school educator, or librarian let me know and I'll put your name in twice. U.S. addresses only. 

Congratulations to Hewi Mason who won Saguaro's Gifts.

FOOTPRINTS ACROSS THE PLANET: A Nonfiction Picture Book Review and Giveaway

  What do you think of when you hear the word, "footprint"? If your name is Jennifer Swanson , then it means many things. This sim...