Wednesday, January 19, 2022

PHOTO ARK ABC: NONFICTION PICTURE BOOK REVIEW, GIVEAWAY, and MINI-AUTHOR INTERVIEW

 I first "met" Debbie Levy through the pages of her novel-in-verse, This Promise of Change. In her newest book, Photo Ark ABC, Debbie  uses more than five different types of poems to playfully describe animals from Aardvarks to Zebra Finches. The accompanying photographs by National Geographic's Joel Sartore are outstanding, cute, and engaging. Children from ages 5-8 will "get" Photo Ark's message of protecting animals and their environment in a beautiful and fun manner. 



REVIEW

The book opens with an overview of all the animals featured in the book. Here is the first stanza:

Hi, Armadillo, 
Greetings! Grizzly Bear!
In a poem you are neighbors
In the wild, you're not a pair.
From there, Debbie takes a unique look at A, for Armadillo. 

This is the last portion of the poem; unfortunately I can't show you how the words are positioned to highlight the physical features of the animal. But the words dance on the page!

The only mammal with a shell
Can barely see but sure can smell
A sniff will tell if danger's near
And if its time to disappear...

To once again
become a pillow
Stoney, scone-y
Armadillo.
The next two spreads compare bears with butterflies- through the photos and words. I wouldn't have have thought of pairing them together, but think about it... They both feast, sleep, and creep!

D is for Duck

Hey, little duckling
What did you do?
What's that drop 
I see behind you?

Aw, little mallard
That's part of life too-
It's not just a Duck thing
It's what we all do!

I is for Iguana


The second stanza of this poem reads,

Neither emerald nor moonstone,
not mineral, but fauna,
This gem has a backbone
This gem is Iguana.
J is for Jellyfish


No lungs, no nose, no ears, no eyes
No brain to make a jelly wise.
No tongues, no toes, not even hearts
Nope. Jellyfish don't need those parts.

Y is for Yabby


There once was a Yabby down under
Who thought he could vanquish the thunder
With claws he went THWACK
At each BOOM and each CRACK
But could not tear thunder asunder.

 

This great STEM book will make a wonderful addition to a little one's library, or to the pre-school through second grade curriculum.


AUTHOR INTERVIEW

CAROL: How did you come up with the idea for this book?


DEBBIE: I didn’t come up with the idea, the people at National Geographic did! A few years ago they’d published Animal Ark, which paired the amazing photos of Joel Sartore with poetic text by Kwame Alexander. Now the idea was to feature another batch of Joel’s photos (of which there are thousands) in an ABC book—from A for armadillo to Z for zebra (and zebra finch!), with a separate poem for each animal. They wanted the poems to be fun and to encourage young people to care about the animals. I was thrilled to have the opportunity.

 

CAROL: Were the poems difficult to write?


DEBBIE: The poems really were a joy to write. I wanted to include different types of poetry, as an homage to the diversity of species but also to add texture to the book. So there are rhyming forms and free verse and more formal structures, too. (These are all identified in my author’s note in the back matter.) You ask how difficult the poems were to write; if writing’s not at least a little difficult, I’m not sure it’s any fun! Some were more of a challenge than others, but by learning about the different species and subspecies pictured in the book, playing around with forms and words, thinking about what might bring a smile or spark curiosity in the reader’s mind, and meditating on Joel’s images, I composed the poems from A to Z! 

 


GIVEAWAY

To enter this giveaway, please leave your name and email address in the comments. If you are reluctant to leave your email address, you can email me at cbaldwin6@me.com. If you are educator or librarian (including home educators!) tell me where you work and I'll put your name in twice. Giveaway ends Saturday, January 22 at 6 PM. 

Congratulations to Lauris Burns who won the much-in-demand book, AIR by Monica Roe. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

INTERVIEW WITH MONICA ROE, AUTHOR OF AIR, and a GIVEAWAY- PART II

 In my last post I shared Monica Roe's debut middle grade novel, Air Today you're going to hear why Monica was uniquely prepared to write this book, her path to publication, and why bees and Alaska each have special roles.

In the author note at the end of Air, Monica relates that in her job as a pediatric physical therapist, she looks at what physically disabled children can do--with or without help. Once she was asked to help determine if a junior high student needed a one-on-one aide. Once you read Air, you'll see how coming alongside of that student and evaluating what he could do and what the school needed to provide, helped provide the framework for Air.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

CAROL: How long did you think about this idea before you started writing Air


MONICA: I'm a bit of a squirrel when it comes to ideas. I grab onto bits and pieces (often quite randomly) and sort of burrow them away for later. I originally started thinking about the first bits of the story back in 2014. Other glimmers and scraps came to me for a few years after that, including the experiences I recounted in the author's note.  

CAROL: I’m curious—are you a plotter or pantster? Mostly I want to know if you “saw” the story pretty quickly because of working with that student, or did the idea evolve. If it evolved—how long was your brainstorming process?

 

MONICA: I have to write from a plot outline, I've learned, or else I find myself endlessly writing myself into corners and dead ends. But the bits-and-scraps of idea collecting that I do beforehand generally takes quite a long time---I might jot down notes for months (or years) before I ever sit down to write that first outline.  

 

CAROL: The ending is brilliant and unexpected. Without giving away the ending, did you know what it was when you started, or did that evolve also?

 

MONICA: Thank you! The ending actually evolved rather unexpectedly to me, as well. I honestly can't remember when or how it came about, but I was pleasantly surprised when it did. I think that nailing down the title helped a bit--as I wrote and revised, it become a sort of repeating motif of sorts, which led me to all sorts of fun little moments of connection that I hadn't expected. 

 

I can only chalk it up to the magic that can sometimes happen when we as writers really let ourselves trust the process--and our subconscious. 

 

CAROL: How long did it take to write?

 

MONCA: I honestly don't remember how long the actual writing process was. I know that I drafted the last half of the book fairly quickly (over three very intense weeks). But the initial outline and the first half of the draft took a lot longer, I think. 

 

CAROL: How did you find your agent? 

 

MONICA: I'd spent some time in the query trenches back in 2015-2016 with another novel and promptly racked up an impressive stack of close to 50 rejections. Jacqui and I met at VCFA and had been in workshop sessions together while there. We knew one another's writing and had traded pages here and there after graduating. We reconnected after she began agenting and she reached out to me when she was building her client list. I was very, very lucky. It was one of those lightning-strikes moments I least expected.  

  

CAROL: From PW, it seems as if the book is getting published in about a year, which is incredible! Is that true?

 

MONICA: The pandemic played a bit of havoc with that timeline. I think the book sold back in May 2020 and it was originally slated for a Fall 2021 release. COVID ended up pushing that back to Winter 2022, which ended up being a good thing. As an added bonus, Air is now launching on the ides of March, which is fun.  

 

CAROL: Can you tell us anything about signing with FS&G?

 

It was a pre-empt--the editor who initially offered asked my agent and me if we'd put a brief hold on considering any other pending offers to allow a window for some negotiating. We were pleased with what FSG came back with and were thrilled and grateful to sign with them. 

 

MONICA: What helped you most in writing this book?

 

I suppose this book really arose fairly organically over time, drawing upon various facets of my professional and personal life, my research and advocacy interests, my own rural background, and--at the end of the day--just the plain old desire to write a story about an ordinary kid full of big dreams and determination who wants to do things in her own time on her own terms.  

 

CAROL: How did you nail Emmie’s voice? 

 

MONICA: I'm very much a character-driven author (which is why I have to force myself to work so hard on plot!). Quite often, it's a character's voice that comes to me first--long before I have any inkling of a storyline or other more concrete details. It usually comes to me fairly unbidden and I'm often surprised by what my characters have to say and how they say it. I was born and raised in a very rural and working-class community, so rural voices are often the ones that I hear most clearly in many of my characters. 

 

CAROL: You obviously have the credentials to write this book. But have you wondered/worried if anyone would question you writing it since you’re not disabled?

 

MONICA: Worried, no. Rather, I'd say that I feel a great responsibility to do this particular story justice. Air takes aim at a lot of tropes, stereotypes, and assumptions that still exist far too widely regarding disability and those who identify as disabled--most of which I've encountered or observed firsthand either in society at large or in my own professional career, research/advocacy, and personal life. I do absolutely feel the gravity of my choice of POV character and I both expect and hope for all the questions and feedback as to why I chose to write Emmie as I did. There are many, many identities and backgrounds which I would never consider myself equipped or appropriate to write and I feel strongly that we as writers must fully embrace and thoughtfully consider the question of which stories we are best (or not) equipped to tell. (Also, any day I get to talk about the social model of disability is a good day, as far as I'm concerned!). 

 

I am very grateful to the two excellent authenticity readers who read the manuscript with a specific eye to my portrayal of Emmie and provided thoughtful and insightful feedback. 

 

I think that sometimes there's a default assumption that all help is helpful as long as intentions are "good." But plenty of clear feedback from within the disability community begs to differ. At its heart, Air is a story about community and accessibility--and how hard it can be to change longstanding assumptions, especially within one's own largely loving community, and how hard it can be to speak up for oneself in the face of well-intentioned ableism. I knew from the start that the main character was a young girl and aspiring athlete who comes to realize that her school's lack of architectural accessibility--and her community's assumptions about her abilities--have actually (if unintentionally) led to her being held to a higher level of scrutiny than her peers. And then she takes action to help them see that! Had I told that story from the point of view of a character who didn't ride on wheels (and therefore wasn't the one directly affected by the school's policies), I think the story would have risked cutting far too close to saviour-ish territory, which I absolutely did not want. It was very important to me that Emmie be the one to both face this unjust (and unfortunately all-too-common) situation--and also that she be the one who gains the agency and the assertiveness to be the change-maker (as opposed to having someone else come in and do it for her). 

 

 

CAROL: What type of research did you do?

 

MONICA: I did do a fair amount of research on WCMX, since I--sadly!--do not share either Emmie's athleticism or her passion to become involved in that particular sport. I also brushed up on some of the finer details of the historical timeline of the disability rights movement in the United States, particularly the 504 sit-ins. 

 

CAROL: What did you think of the cover?



MONICA:  It exceeded my hopes in every way. I was also quite surprised and pleased with the amount of input I was given on the cover, especially in the fine-tuning stages of the process. Before any illustrations were made, my editor asked me to make a Pinterest mood board for the team with some images and ideas that captured how I imagined the cover might look, which was a lot of fun. 


Mallory Grigg (cover designer) and Oriol Vidal (cover artist) were phenomenal to work with. They were extremely responsive to the input I offered on early versions of the cover and ultimately captured the energy, ethos, and place of the story in a pitch-perfect way. I couldn't have been more delighted or grateful for their amazing skill and vision. 

 

CAROL: Why bees?


MONICA: My husband and I have kept bees for about ten years now-- just a small apiary next to the Congaree Swamp. We've kept as many as 24 hives and as few as 2, depending upon the year and what else we've got going on. These days, since we divide our time between Alaska and South Carolina, we only have a handful of active hives and are fortunate to have family nearby who help care for the bees when we're not around. 

 

 

CAROL: Why Alaska?

 

MONICA: I wanted to create a character who lived far away from Emmie, yet became an unexpected confidant and mentor. Alaska seemed a logical choice--it seems to have a bit of a mystique, particularly among those who've not experienced it firsthand, and I thought that a fiesty, independent grandma who lived life her way on a tiny Alaskan island would be someone Emmie would find fascinating--and perhaps a potential role model in some ways. 

 


GIVEAWAY 

You have THREE chances to enter this giveaway. Leave a comment here and you get one chance. Leave a comment on the review for a second chance. If you click here and discover how I met Monica and leave a comment there--your name goes in the hat three times! U.S. addresses only. Giveaway ends January 17th at noon. If you don't want to leave your email address, please email me and I'll enter your name. Make sure you leave your name and email address if you are new to my blog!

And if you don't win, I hope you consider purchasing this book for yourself, a young reader in your life, or a library. Pre-orders help authors!

Sunday, January 9, 2022

AIR: A MIDDLE GRADE REVIEW AND GIVEAWAY-- PART I

I am thrilled to share with you my friend Monica Roe's, upcoming novel, Air (Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, March 15, 2022)Today you are going to hear about a book that her publisher describes as,
"a smart, energetic middle grade debut about thinking big, working hard, and taking flight."

On Thursday you'll get a glimpse behind the scenes in my interview with Monica. She'll share the book's backstory and her road to publication.

But for now, sit back and enjoy hearing about a book that I hope, will fly off the bookshelves.


                                    (Is this an amazing cover, or what?)

REVIEW

From the second page of this book for boys and girls, the reader hears voice, courage, and a good dose of Southern chutzpah, and a touch of sadness. The main character, Emmie, and her best friend, Ale, are setting her up for a launch off of the wheelchair ramp her father built.  As they prepare she thinks, 

"We [her father and her] used to be out here together, instead of me having to sneak around." 

I read that sentence and thought, "What happened to change things?" 
What a great way to insert backstory to make the reader keep going! 

The internalization continues:

I pull on my padded gloves, bring my front wheels to the edge, and breathe. The view from the top of a drop--even a basic one like this--gets me going every time. Those tadpoles swimming in my chest and the sweat on my palms are the best kind of rush. Now that added jump waiting at the bottom makes my guts fizz like I ate a handful of live bees and chased them with a bottle of Coke.

Right. Let's do this. (p. 4)

A few pages later the chapter ends with:

I'm Emelyn Ethridge. I'm twelve-and-a-half years old. Alejandra Che is my best friend.

I like Flamain' Hot Cheetos.

And I love speed. (p.8)


As a reader, I'm hooked. And I won't let go until I find out what this daring young wheelchair athlete is going to do.

As speedy as Emmie herself, this book moves. The author doesn't take much space on the page to let the reader know, "Baby Emmie's spinal cord left the factory with a design glitch." Her parents "never let me get away with acting like I was some miracle for getting out of bed...They put me on wheels, had me popping curbs by the time I was six." (p. 19-20)

Early on the reader discovers that her mom recently died and her father  has changed--he doesn't seem to believe in her anymore. "He was my biggest cheerleader--my partner in high-speed mischief. Since Mom's been gone, he's so...different. Cautious. Scared even. (p. 22) Her father's work, night classes, and overtime hours don't give them the time together she wants. 

I admire the way in which Monica uses deep point-of-view to show who Emmie is and what she wants. For example, when she witnesses an argument between her father and Nonny, her maternal grandmother, she thinks:
Sometimes I think it's too bad Dad and Nonny don't have wheels, too. Moving fast is the best way I know to keep ahead of feelings you'd rather shake off. (p. 34)

When she dresses up and attends a fairy festival with Ale, she observes:
Nobody's paying us any mind. One thing I love about the festival is that pretty much nobody pays attention to my chair. It's almost like it's a part of my costume--like those people riding in the wooden troll wagon or bounding around on their spring-loaded stilts while telling fortunes. Everyone blends right in. (p. 101)
Without knocking the reader over the head and telling her that Emmie wants to be treated like a kid--not a person with a disability--Monica shows it. This theme is deeply embedded in Air and is crucial to the ending which I didn't foresee. Afterwards, I realized it is a perfect conclusion to a story where the character reaches both her internal and external goals

In addition to a well-developed character, Monica includes some terrific secondary characters who contribute mightily to the plot. There's a budding romance with a cute, rodeo "prince" (with all the miscommunication that comes with a first-time crush); an annoying aide who is assigned to Emmie but who proves her worth as a friend; and a spit-firing Alaskan Granny who orders custom wheelchair bags from Emmie.  (I forgot to tell you--Emmie and Ale have an online shop to raise money: Emmie craves a high-end, multi-link-suspension stunt chair and Ale is working towards getting a new hive. They sell bags that Emmie sews and natural stuff which they salvage from the South Carolina scrub between their houses).

Did I love this book? Guess that's obvious. Am I going to study it to see how Monica portrayed Emmie's voice so well? You bet.

Come back on Thursday and find out more about Monica and why she was in a unique position to write about a young person with a disability and why bees and Alaska found a perfect place in the world of Air

GIVEAWAY

You have THREE chances to enter this giveaway. Leave a comment here and you get one chance. Leave a comment on Thursday's author interview with Monica and you get a second chance. If you click here and discover how I met Monica and leave a comment there--your name goes in the hat three times! U.S. addresses only. Giveaway ends January 17th at 6PM. If you don't want to leave your email address, please email me and I'll enter your name. Make sure you leave your name and email address if you are new to my blog!

And if you don't win, I hope you consider purchasing this book for yourself, a young reader in your life, or a library. Pre-orders help authors!

Congratulations to Danielle Hammelef who won SEEKING FREEDOM. 



Wednesday, January 5, 2022

SEEKING FREEDOM: The Untold Story of Fortress Monroe and the Ending of Slavery in America- A Nonfiction Picture Book Review and Giveaway

I'm starting off the new year by joining a blog tour for a new book by award-winning Selene Castrovilla, SEEKING FREEDOM (Calkins Creek, 2022). The expressive watercolor illustrations are by award-winning artistrator, E.B. Lewis.


REVIEW

Although most of this informational picture book for 7-10 year-olds is presented in a journal format, the book opens with a quote from President Abraham Lincoln's First Inaugural Address on March 6, 1981:

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

The next page explains how Lincoln was unable to convince the remaining Southern states (seven had already left the United States) to stay. War broke out on April 2, 1861. Five days later, Virginia abandoned the country. Fearful of being separated from their families and forced into hard labor, "The enslaved people...would do anything to be free."

Thus, this true story opens.



Scott knew the forest and swamps--but he didn't know what was going on the town of Hampton. He overheard field hands talking about how three Negroes had escaped to a Union fortress nearby--and hadn't been returned. Could it be? Were the Union soldiers inside Fortress Monroe friends to Negroes?


Scott watched as eight Negroes headed inside. He waited. But they didn't come out. Was it true? Were these people now among friends?

Despite his fears, he snuck in with another group of Negroes and waited for an interview with the commander of Fortress Monroe--Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler. 

https://www.nps.gov/fomr/learn/historyculture/index.htm

By the time Scott spoke with Butler, the major was frustrated. He had interviewed many Negros but hadn't obtained the information he needed: Where were the Confederates stationed?  The major was also in a difficult position. He was holding every Negro who came to him as contraband of war--"property used for warlike purposes against the government of the United States." 


Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print
"A Group of Contrabands"
James Gibson, photographer
When Major Butler spoke with George Scott he realized he'd found the man he was looking for--someone who could track down the Confederates. Even after finding out that his plan to use Negros as spies was approved, Butler was still worried. Could the fortress remain secure against enemy attack? He prayed for Scott's safety.

George Scott wandered for eight days looking for the Confederates. He prayed that the Lord would lead him. Just then, he saw thousands of Confederate soldiers outside a church. His prayers had been answered. 

Scott raced back to the fort with the news he had gleaned--the rebels were preparing to cut off all supplies.




 
Butler's men had not died in vain. The confederates had fled; the threat to the fortress was over. But how could Butler reward Scott? When Scott asked for freedom, Butler put his legal skills to work.

 Butler implored the President and Congress: 

These human beings must be given the free enjoyment of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

 

BACK MATTER

Seeking Freedom includes eight pages of back matter; that's an exceptional amount of pages! But the sections on the Aftermath (including references to the Confiscation Act of 1862 and the Emancipation Proclamation), the Contrabands, Benjamin Butler's Legacy, George Scott, and Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, add a depth of information to this informational picture book that will be appreciated by older students as well as adults. By the way, the last spread is a picture of President Obama signing a proclamation establishing the Fort Monroe National Monument. 

Interestingly, there are no known images of George Scott. William Headly shared Scott's story. He escaped enslavement and became a contraband in North Carolina. His cloak is an old cotton bag. 

https://www.loc.gov/item/2010647919/

For a view behind the scenes of how Selene came to write this story, see her post on Nerdy Book Club.  

Here's a YouTube video of Selene talking to her editor, Carolyn Yoder, about writing picture books which bring alive history.


GIVEAWAY

To enter this giveaway, please leave me a comment by 6PM on January 8th. U.S. postal addresses only. If you decide to follow my blog I'll put your name in for a second chance.Please include your name and email address if you are new to my blog. If you are hesitant to leave your email address, you can reach me directly by clicking here. 

Congratulations to Gail Cartee who won The Dirt Book from last week's blog.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Dirt Book: Poems About Animals That Live Under Our Feet

From the moment you hold The Dirt Book: Poems About Animals that Live Beneath Our Feet (Holiday House, 2021) in your hands, you realize that this is a unique picture book.  After all, how many books do you turn 90 degrees in order to read it? I can only think of one other, Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens, which my (now) adult children enjoyed as kids! 

In fact, the award-winning author of The Dirt Book, David L. Harrison, admitted that the brilliant design concept was worked out between his editor and the artist, Kate Cosgrove (scroll down to her October 13th post). "It was a delightful surprise to see the finished book," David said. 

If you haven't yet seen this STEM poetry book, you might wonder what I'm so excited about. The reader's experience is enhanced by poems and images that begin at the top of the page and are carried through to the bottom--which shows what is going on in the dirt. And of course, since David is a poet, he uses different types of poetry to highlight these critters.

REVIEW

The book begins with a dirt recipe:


(Parents beware: your children may want to try and duplicate this recipe in your backyard!)

What creatures are found in the dirt?

Readers will meet a doodlebug who creates dirt funnels so that ants slide in and become their lunch; a trap door spider, 



and an earthworm who performs dirty work:


Earthworm squiggles,

earthworm squirms,

earthworm dines on 

dirt and germs.


Earthworm dodges,

earthworm weaves,

earthworm nibbles

dear wet leaves.

Earthworm crawls,

earthworm creeps,

earthworm tunnels,

rarely sleeps.

Under our feet are ants that build cities, grubs which kill grass (the immaculate-lawn owner's nemesis!), mice, moles, bees, toads, and... Warning! Warning! Yellow Jacket Wasps.

 

 

I love this ending spread with a form of a Tristitia poem:


If you are interested in reading David's inspiration for this book and what he hopes readers will take away from it, please see this interview on Deborah Kalb's blog.


CURRICULUM RESOURCE


Readers from pre-kindergarten through third grade will enjoy the illustrations and poetry. The book will be a great asset to classrooms and homeschool educators. Christian parents and teachers, please be aware that the introduction includes the belief that dirt was formed two million to four billion years ago.

GIVEAWAY

If you would like to enter this giveaway, please leave your name AND EMAIL ADDRESS (if you are new to my blog). Educators and media specialists, include where you work and I'll enter your name twice. If you decide to follow my blog, I'll also throw in an additional chance. U.S. postal addresses only. The giveaway ends on New Year's Day at 12 PM. 



Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Revision Revisited

 If you're a writer, then someone has probably said to you: "So, are you done with your book yet?" If the person who you are talking to loves you then he may say, "How's the book coming along?" Which is a softer, kinder way of saying the same thing. 

Either way, most people who are not in the writing/publishing world have NO idea how much writing and re-writing goes into creating a book. And either way, you'll feel a little defensive as you try to explain why it's taken years to create a finished product.

REVISION BLOGS

Revision happens on so many levels. There are drafts when a writer is just getting the story out. There are big picture revisions when a writer has to re-vision her entire novel. And then of course, there are a host of "minor" revisions to make your characters and story authentic.


A page of side notes on Kate's character development.

I've blogged about the revision process several times. Here is one from the Free Expressions workshop I took ten years ago. And here is a blog with Harold Underdown's advice on not submitting until your work is ready. Mary Jane Nirdlinger wrote an excellent post about revision for the SCBWI-Carolinas region. I highly recommend it.

TRUE CONFESSION

I started Half-Truths over 15 years ago. I knew I could write, but I'd never written a novel AND I took on a topic that was much bigger (and more difficult to write) than I realized.  Here is the updated blurb for my middle grade book:

In the Jim Crow south, thirteen-year-old Kate Dinsmore meets two people who challenge her world view: a small-town newspaper editor determined to stop the KKK and a young Black maid who proves to be her second cousin. Told through narrative, letters, newspaper headlines, and poetry, Kate comes to grips with her identity, decides what she will stand for, and takes risks to become a journalist who will make a difference. 

Although I imagined the girls' relationship since the book's inception, I went off in many different directions as I wrestled with writing the book. Rebecca Petruck, one of my early critiquers, kept encouraging me to return to that relationship--even when I included murders, boyfriends, and information about the Korean war. (Did I say this was my first novel?)

Joyce Hostetter, a wonderful historical middle grade author has been my mentor throughout the process. Under her guidance, I researched widely and found tremendous experts who informed my knowledge of the time period and the plot. I visited places on the Charlotte African American tour. I talked to people who went to the same high school as my characters, Meet My Experts III- Vermelle Diamond Ely and Meet my Experts

In 2016 I sent the manuscript to beta readers (check out the picture of of my technique for plotting my book). I incorporated their feedback and kept on going. Along the way I received editorial advice to write the book from both girls' POV's. I was reluctant to do that since I'm white, but Rebecca encouraged me in that direction. By the time I was ready to submit that version, the publishing industry had changed and that was no longer an option. In 2017 I made the difficult decision to start over from Kate's POV.

It was hard to give up all the work I had done to write Lillian's story, but it was the right decision. I re-outlined the book and started a new version focusing on Kate's journey. In doing that, I still went off on too many rabbit trails! 

Finally, last year (based on Joyce's encouragement) I took Kathy Temean's whole novel workshop. I received excellent feedback from three peers, incorporated their suggestions, and then sent it to an agent who read the entire 78,000 word manuscript.

The agent's insightful feedback provided a TON of things to work on--including deciding if this is a middle grade or young adult book. Ittook several months to incorporate her suggestions--including showing more of Kate's life before she moves to Charlotte. After re-writing the beginning, I realized that I had painted an overly optimistic ending and that needed changing! I decided the book needed to stretch out over an entire year and that required rearranging chapters.

Yesterday, I reached another milestone. I sent the revised 64,000 word manuscript to Joyce. She will go through it with a fine-tooth comb and I will revise it again.

And only after that--will I send it out.

So, that is why this book has taken me so long to write!

https://www.123rf.com/photo_128021414_word-writing-text-revision-business-photo-showcasing-action-of-revising-over-someone-like-auditing-o.html

Yesterday I texted Kathryn Frye, a Charlotte videographer who produced and directed the documentary, African American Album: Charlotte, NC Mecklenburg History.  She and Vermelle Ely, have been cheering for my book ever since I met them. I told her I feel that it's risky for a white woman to write about race, She responded: 

"It’s a great story from its creator, no matter what shade of human she is! We have always been fully confident that we will hold the book one day."

HOW ABOUT YOU?

Do you have a revision story? Please share in the comments!                                                       

Congratulations to Terri Michels for winning Janine Yordy's book, Jellyfish Wishes and Poems About Fishes. After entering my giveaways many times, she finally won!

ON A PERSONAL NOTE

I have grandchildren coming to visit so I'll be taking a short holiday from blogging. But I'll be back in your inbox soon!

Thursday, December 16, 2021

JELLYFISH WISHES AND POEMS ABOUT FISHES: A Picture Book Review and Autographed Giveaway

 It's always a pleasure to introduce friends' books. Janine Yordy and I met years ago when the SCBWI Charlotte group met at Morrison library in South Park. 

The inspiration for this book came from Janine spending summers at the beach with her boys as well as the beauty she found in nature. As a biologist she picked and researched animals she loved.

It's now my delight to share her second picture book with you, JELLYFISH WISHES AND POEMS ABOUT FISHES with illustrations by Ellen Injerd (Paraklesis Press, 2021)

REVIEW





The book begins with children running down to the sea; here is the first poem:

        BEACH DAY

Sun pops up, and out we run.
Shovels, buckets surfboards, FUN!
And all around us life is brimming--
flying, crawling, floating, swimming.
Sticky sand beneath our feet.
Wonder who we're gonna meet.

The reader is then introduced to  CRABBY:


The poems are full of figurative language and different rhyming techniques which will make the sea creatures memorable. Readers will discover shells with "someone smelly still inside" (alliteration); a lovely osprey who "wishes for a mate to date" (internal rhyme); a heron who goes "SWISH for a fish, and SSLLURP." (internal rhyme and onomatopoeia); and a pelican whose "beaking is super for sneaking and high-dive techniquing" (unique internal rhyme scheme). 

Here's a fun limerick:


Dolphins dance and glide (vivid verbs) and gulls "scuffled over pickled leeks, with yapping, snapping, beachy beaks." (internal rhyme)

Have you ever thought about a stingray flying? Janine did!


Silly poems include a jellyfish waiting to meet her Peanut Butter, an eel that "slithers, swimming with a swish. He's a special, snake-ish fish." (alliteration, fun made-up word). 

A hammerhead shark complains, "No nails, no wood, no way I should be mending someone's fence. My snoot is cute, so I dispute: my name does not make sense."

Here is one of my favorites,



The book ends with the children who are seen through out the book, saying goodnight to the beach under a  darkening sky, and a lovely spread about sea turtles. 


 


Don't you love the "moon-made map"? I do!

GIVEAWAY

Enter to win an autographed copy by leaving a comment by December 19 at 9 AM.  PLEASE LEAVE YOUR NAME AND EMAIL ADDRESS IF YOU ARE NEW TO MY BLOG. U.S. Postal addresses only. 

Congratulations to Susan Rice who won DINO PAJAMA PARTY.


PHOTO ARK ABC: NONFICTION PICTURE BOOK REVIEW, GIVEAWAY, and MINI-AUTHOR INTERVIEW

  I first "met" Debbie Levy through the pages of her novel-in-verse, This Promise of Change.   In her newest book, Photo Ark ABC ...