Friday, January 28, 2022

VALENSLIME: A Picture Book Review and an Autographed Giveaway

Do you remember back in July when I reviewed Joy Keller's book Frankenslime that is illustrated by my SCBWI-Carolinas friend, Ashley Belote?

I had announced that the next book in this series, Valenslime (Feiwel and Friends, 2021), would be ready in time for Valentine's Day. I am here today with a review and the perfect present for your little sweetheart!



REVIEW

Here is the opening paragraph that tells us about the main character:

 

Victoria Franklin was a 

slime scientist.

She loved her slime

Her slime, Goop,

loved her back. 


The next two pages show the reader the many ways in which Victoria and Goop love each other--the fun they have together in her lab, the science books they enjoy together, and their joint affection for Victoria's dog, Igor.

BUT...there's a problem. (Of course! There has to be a problem, right?) 

Victoria realizes that she has lots of friends to send Valentines to--but poor Goop, only has one friend. Her. It just isn't fair.

Victoria takes the problem into her capable hands. 

If Goop couldn't make a new friend,

She would make a new friend for him!

As any good scientist does, Victoria brainstorms slime recipes in order to make the perfect combination to make a friend for Goop. Finally, she assembles the perfect ingredients. Then she waits for lightening to strike so her creation will jolt to life. 

But there's no lightening! 

So, how does a scientist like Victoria solve that problem?

You create your own electricity!


But...that's when Victoria's slime solution grows into unmatched proportions and complicates Victoria's goal of creating a friend for Goop.

I don't want to give away the ending or spoil the surprise of Ashley's clever, colorful illustrations. Let's just say Victoria's slime solution ensures that everyone is happy.


This book is not only a cute Valentine read, it is also a fun way to teach young children about writing. Did you catch what I said in the first two paragraphs of this review? On the first page Ms. Keller tells the reader about Victoria's friendship with Goop. Then the author follows that with showing what this friendship looks like. 

The character then encounters a problem which she attempts to solve. This is a great way to show young writers that the main character is ALWAYS the one to solve her problem! Victoria meets obstacles but eventually obtains her goal-creating a special friend for Goop.

Three new slime recipes--including one that is edible--will delight young scientists. 

GIVEAWAY

Ashley is giving an autographed copy of VALENSLIME  to one fortunate reader. The giveaway ends on Tuesday, February at 9 AM. 

For a chance to win, leave a comment with your email address, or send me an email if you prefer. If you share this on social media, you will get one extra chance; if you follow my blog you will get another chance. Tell me what you have done and I will enter your name accordingly. Winner must live in the continental U.S.


Congratulations to Tiffany Slack, head librarian at the Matthews Christian Library, who won Photo ARK ABC on last week's blog and Danielle Hammelef who won The Short Life of Krill. By the way--Danielle's secret for winning so many books is that whenever she can. she shares my posts on social media. 

Monday, January 24, 2022

GOOD EATING: A DEBUT STEM PICTURE BOOK + A MINI-AUTHOR INTERVIEW + A GIVEAWAY

I'm always on the lookout for new picture books to share, so when I saw that, Good Eating: The Short Life of Krill  (Tilbury House Publishers, 2022) was Matt Lilley's debut picture book, I asked him if he was interested in a review. In the mini-author interview below, Matt talks about the difference between writing for the educational market and writing for the trade market.



REVIEW


Here's how this "I-bet-you-never-knew-these-interesting-facts-about-krill" fun book opens:

The narrator observes (and the illustrator, Dan Tavis, shows) how over the next few weeks that tiny egg sinks, wiggles, grows six arms, grows a shell, breaks out of that shell and...


realizes he better not think about all the other ocean creatures who want to eat him!!!

In a month's time, little krill (who is smaller than a paperclip) has swam upwards 2 miles and is HUNGRY!

So, he begins to eat any plant or animal small enough to stuff into his mouth.

But he also must watch out for...PENGUINS!


Little krill has eaten so much that now his belly is green and makes him a visible, perfect snack for hungry predators. 

So, he swims down, his shell cracks again, and now he looks bug-eyed!




But, he's not a bug and although he looks like a shrimp, he's definitely NOT a shrimp. He's almost a full-grown (paper clip size) krill who continues to swim, eat, and grow.


By the time he is an adult, he has 26 legs, can scrape food off of sea ice, and has spots that light up and produce his own light!


And just in case you're wondering how many millions and millions of krill there are in the world... Author Matt Lilley says there are a 

KRILLION!


Krill are good at eating...and at being eaten. Seabirds, penguins, seals and roughly a million krill make a meal for a hungry--



BACK MATTER

The back matter, which includes more wonderful illustrations, explains the life cycle of krill and how these tiny creatures are the "keystone species of the Southern Ocean." The author discusses how krill move and can even "molt and bolt"--shedding their skin when a predator is near--and swim away!

MINI- AUTHOR INTERVIEW


CAROL: Why krill?

MATT: There is something about Antarctica that I find fascinating. It's this huge, relatively untouched wilderness. After reading a lot about Antarctica, I kept coming across mentions of Antarctic krill. So much of the wildlife down there eats krill. Penguins, seals, whales, sea birds - all these cool kinds of megafauna eat krill. They are essential to that ecosystem. So I thought a book about them would make for a fun window into that world.

CAROL: This is your first picture book, but you've written several educational books for kids. Can you tell us a little bit about the difference between writing the two different genres? 

MATT: When you write for the educational market, the publisher comes up with the idea. They know exactly what they want the book to be about, what reading level it should be, how many words, everything. They assign the book to you and your job is to write exactly to their specifications. For the trade market, it's the opposite. You come up with everything on your own. 

For Good Eating, I decided that krill would make a good topic, did all the research, and wrote a polished manuscript before contacting a publisher. Then I had to find a publisher and convince them that my vision would make a good picture book. It's a long, difficult process with no guarantees. 

CAROL: Do you have any advice for anyone else who wants to switch from writing educational books to writing for the trade market?

MATT: For anyone looking to break into the trade market, I would just say that it's very difficult, it takes a lot of time and persistence, but hopefully if you stick with it, you'll eventually find an editor who can appreciate your vision.

GIVEAWAY


Leave me a comment by 9AM on January 28 or send me an email to enter. U.S. addresses only. MAKE SURE YOU LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS if you are new to my blog. Share this on social media or start following my blog (tell me which one!) and I'll enter your name twice.

Congratulations to Tiffany Slack, who won Photo ARK ABC for the Matthews Christian Library last week. 


DID YOU KNOW?

I'm now sharing middle grade reviews on Greg Pattridge's wonderful  MMGM blog. Today, my post links back to a previous interview with Joyce Hostetter and explores how she wrote her prequel, AIM. Follow the links and enter that giveaway too!



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.

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 i...