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Book Review – The Diamond and the Boy by Hannah Holt

Welcome back to the book review section of The Wonder of Words. For those who don’t know me, I trained as a chemical engineer before I started writing. I also have a science-obsessed daughter who had us read The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs to her when she was four, and who was receiving adult books on astronomy, science and nature for her birthdays from an early age. My favourite of her birthday books is The Elements by Theodore Gray. It is visually spectacular and the text is very readable, challenging and, at times, funny. The page on carbon is fascinating.

Which brings me to the non-fiction picture book, The Diamond and the Boy by Hannah Holt (who, incidentally, is also an engineer). The Diamond and the Boy is a remarkable book about graphite (aka carbon), diamond (aka carbon) and Tracy Hall (the man who created the first diamond-making machine). The book is popular in review circles and Hannah has also discussed her process on a number of blogs, so I will try to bring something new to the discussion.

Creating non-fiction picture books that engage the child is no easy task. There are facts you can’t fudge for the sake of a story and in the past, those facts have been presented in a relatively dry manner – facts must be boring, right? Thanks to the wonderful selection of non-fiction children’s books on the market this has changed and we are seeing books that stay true to the facts and also present an engaging text for children. I could have chosen any number of remarkable non-fiction books to review, so why The Diamond and the Boy?

The Diamond and the Boy appeals to the engineer and the parent in me. It’s a book that humanises science. It’s a book I wish I’d had for my science obsessed daughter so I didn’t have to wade through dry facts each night. The lyricism creates evocative reading. The parallel narratives set up a metaphor for Tracy Hall being as tough as diamonds without being clichéd. But it also shows that you don’t have to be tough to succeed. It demonstrates key attributes parents would like for their children: curiosity, determination, patience, perseverance and resilience.

The Diamond and the Boy is also a book about grandparents. Tracy Hall is Hannah’s grandfather. This isn’t apparent in the main text, however, the back matter on Tracy’s life shows the relationship they had and the relationship Hannah wanted. In fact, all the back matter in this book is excellent reading. Hannah doesn’t shy away from the issue of blood diamonds and she presents the history of diamonds and Tracy Hall’s legacy in a timeline.

The incorporation of science, engineering, biography, history and human relationships and traits in one short picture book is a marvel. To present it in a way that feels authentic and natural is what makes this book remarkable.

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Finding Creativity, Uncategorized

Picture Book Debut & How ‘What Ifs’ Inspire Creativity

Hi y’all! We have a special guest on the Wonder of Words blog today—one I’m excited to introduce (though needs no introduction), debut author AND fellow critique group partner, Sandra Sutter. Welcome, Sandra!

Thank you, Candice, for asking me to share a little about my debut picture book and my overall creative process. I love working with you and our other critique partners on this blog, but I have to admit it is a lot of fun to drop by as a featured guest, too.

Where did you find the inspiration for your story?

Like many authors I know, my child gave me that initial spark of inspiration for THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL. He is one of those kids who will ask a million questions about anything you can possibly imagine. That can be inspiring and, well… exhausting, all at the same time. With this story, I was walking by as he looked up from his iPad to ask, “Did you know the farmer took a wife?” When I explained that yes, that was how the song went, he replied, “Well, I did not know that!” Then I thought… it doesn’t have to go that way, does it? What if the farmer didn’t take a wife? What if the farmer didn’t live in a dell? I ran off to write down answers to these and other questions, and out of this, my story was born. Cover The Real Farmer in the Dell

I have a couple of those Million-Question-Kids, too! Love that your son’s question led to the What-If game in a sense. What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I am an ideas person; my head is filled with them. I like to look at things from different angles, brainstorm, then get it out on “paper” and see a story come to life. This is also one reason I like to do critiques. To see the way someone else tackles a subject or comes up with a completely unique storyline. It is fascinating to think of all the stories already out there and yet to be written.

Do you have other creative outlets or hobbies? How do they cross into your writing?

The short answer is yes, I do. I just wish I had more time to do them. I am not an illustrator, but I love to draw and paint for inspiration. It might be a picture of an animal or the main character in one of my stories, or just colorful lines on a paper. I also like photography and used to do more of it when my kids were babies. It was just for fun, but it was a creative outlet for me when I was working as an attorney before going full into writing as a career. My “hobbies” would be mountain biking, hiking, cooking, yoga, and traveling.

I love yoga too. A few minutes in usually leads to me running for paper and pen. Do you have any tips you’d like to share about finding creativity?

I had to be “open” to creativity before it really took hold in my life. Before I started writing, I was a counselor for four years and then an attorney for ten. With the exception of being able to think outside-the-box and help people re-write their own narratives, I didn’t see myself as creative. I wasn’t very “artsy”, or so I thought. But then these stories started to pop into my mind and I couldn’t shake them. I just HAD to get them on paper even if it scared me to have anyone read them. When I allowed myself to do this, it was like someone opened the flood-gates in my mind and a river of ideas poured into my life. So here I am.

As far as a practical tip, I find it helpful to use time-blocking strategies. Schedule an appointment with yourself to be creative in whatever way you like as if it were a doctor’s appointment or a parent-teacher conference. You can accomplish absolutely nothing during that time, but at least do something you love. For example, I aim for at least one day each month that I draw or paint something. No writing!

Wonderful how you phrased that, being open to creativity, because that’s exactly how one needs to be. Creativity usually seems to inspire more creativity. Do you have another book project you’re working on that you could give us a hint about?

I am one of those writers who tends to juggle a dozen or so projects at a time. I like the variety, and sometimes one project bleeds into another which can also lend itself to unexpected, but beautiful outcomes. One of my newer projects is a picture book about possibilities and probabilities. Again, my son may have something to do with that! I have also started a second middle-grade novel about a boy who has to navigate changing peer relationships and an absentee mother who reappears after his single-parent dad wins the lotto. Don’t ask me where that came from, because I have no clue. The idea just appeared one day and now I have to write the story.

Of course, there have been other wonderful creatives that helped bring THE REAL FARMER IN THE DELL to life. My publisher, Callie Metler-Smith, at Clear Fork Publishing and Dr. Mira Resiberg, my editor and art director, were instrumental in bringing it all together. They found the incredibly talented illustration team, Chantelle and Burgen Thorne, to put the right pictures with my words. I couldn’t have done it without this exceptional group of people!

Thank you so much for having me on the blog, Candice. It has been a pleasure!

Enjoyed our interview, Sandra, and always your insightful critiques. Congrats again on your debut!

Connect with Sandra at:

www.sdsutter.com
https://twitter.com/sandradsutter
https://www.facebook.com/sandrasutterauthor/

THE REAL FARMER AND THE DELL officially releases March 19th but if you’re like me and can’t wait ‘til then, you can ask your favorite indie bookstore to pre-order it, or purchase it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble:

https://www.amazon.com/Real-Farmer-Dell-Sandra-Sutter/dp/1946101885/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1550347017&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Real+Farmer+in+the+Dell

And: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-real-farmer-in-the-dell-sandra-sutter/1130070330?ean=9781946101884

For y’all’s creativity challenge inspired by this interview, play the What-If game to encourage brainstorming. If you have or are around children, listen for prompts they may inadvertently send your way. Let me know in the comments and I’ll randomly choose a winner for a picture book critique by me!

Finding Creativity, Uncategorized

Marcie Colleen on Sparking Whimsy & Rocketing to the Moon

Hi, y’all! Today on the Wonder of Words blog we have super talented author, Marcie Colleen, answering questions about her latest picture book, PENGUINAUT!, and on sparking creativity.

Welcome, Marcie! Thanks so much for being here. PENGUINAUT! is such a wonderful combination of humor and heart-squishes. My five year-old went grocery shopping with me recently and was BESIDE HIMSELF EXCITED when the buggy ahead of us was full of 2 liter soft drinks. He was sure they were planning on rocketing to the moon!

PenguinautSoftDrinks

Wondering why Mermaid Girl & Dinosaur Boy are reading with fizzy drinks surrounding them? You’ll have to read the book to find out! 🙂

LOL! That’s awesome! Definitely rocketing to the moon.

1. When and where did you get the inspiration for Orville’s story?

Back in December of 2011 a friend of mine posted the following on Facebook:

fbNow, as a writer, I can’t control where my ideas come from. And after reading this, I became so curious about penguins and their lack of necks which would prevent them from looking at the stars. I asked, “what if?” (that is what writers do, we are constantly asking “what if?”). What if a penguin saw the moon for the first time and became so enthralled that he wanted to find a way to get there?

As with all stories, this one went through lots of revisions (39 to be exact!) and lots of re-imaginings. Along the way, I have lost the “falling over and discovering the moon” bit, but the adventurous spirit of Orville lives on in the published book.

2. I love the idea of penguins willing to fall down for a chance to look at the stars! And 39 revisions—that makes me feel better about my own manuscripts. What is your favorite part of the creative process?

My favorite part of the process is when I can call on my pals and get feedback on what I have written. They always help me see the lack and where I can make things stronger. I love that process. Brene Brown talks about how no art is created without midwifery. And my books have required a lot of midwifery. That collaboration is the best part of creation for me.

Penguianut cover low res

3. Yes! I rely heavily on the wonderful Wonder of Words PB critique group as well as my in-person Write Club ladies for MG & YA. I feel I’m a stronger writer after taking your Study Hall over the summer too. Do you have other creative outlets or hobbies? Do they cross into your writing?

 

I have lots of other creative outlets. I like to dabble in music, singing and playing a little ukulele and guitar. I also love to cook. I run every day. I suppose these do cross over into my writing, as they allow me to replenish my inner well. They fire up the imagination, spark whimsy, and encourage experimentation. So, they might not cross into my writing directly, but they certainly do play in.

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 9.56.24 AM
Illustrator Emma Yarlett did a superb job on capturing Orville and his zoo friends

4. Do you have any tips you’d like to share about finding creativity?

 

I very much think of creativity as a muscle. The more you work the muscle, the more you will build. Therefore, take time to infuse your day with play and imagination. As you do that, your creativity feelers will grow and before you know it, you will be finding stories everywhere you look.

5. So true. I love this permission to play and use the imagination! Creativity usually seems to inspire more creativity. Do you have another book project you’re working on that you could give us a hint about?

 

My next picture book comes out in Winter 2020 from Macmillan. It’s called The Bear’s Garden and it will be illustrated by Alison Oliver (Moon, BabyLit series). It’s about an intrepid girl, her beloved stuffed bear, and the garden they create in a forgotten corner of their neighborhood. It is inspired by a real community garden in Brooklyn, New York and it’s so wonderful to see my former neighborhood come to life through Alison’s gorgeous art. It truly will be a love letter to the place both Alison and I have called home.

 

Community gardens are such a wonderful thing I’m happy to see popping up more and more regularly. This story sounds beautiful! Thank you so much for your time, Marcie! And y’all, her Study Halls are GREAT. We highly recommend. Check out her website for more information.

20160113_D800_marciecolleen_headshot_9442_3x4In previous chapters Marcie Colleen has been a teacher, an actress, and a nanny, but now she spends her days writing children’s books! She is the author of THE SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS chapter book series with Macmillan/Imprint, as well picture books, LOVE, TRIANGLE, illustrated by Bob Shea (Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins), and PENGUINAUT!, illustrated by Emma Yarlett (Scholastic). She lives with her husband and their mischievous sock monkey in San Diego, California. Visit Marcie at www.thisismarciecolleen.com or follow her on Twitter @MarcieColleen1.

 

For y’all’s creativity prompt inspired by this interview, watch your social media feed to see if a post sparks whimsy in you. Let me know in the comments, and I’ll randomly choose a winner for a picture book manuscript critique by me!

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Alliteration by Gabrielle Schoeffield

I confess, my fascination with words qualifies as a first-rate fetish.   It’s only natural I should challenge myself to share the wonder of words and writing from A to Z.

Today, I’d like to share what I have found (and love) about alliteration.  Alliteration is in the air, in awe inspiring abundance much like the autumn leaves.

Alliteration, by definition, is “the repetition of usually initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables.” There are so many examples of this in everyday life.  Business’s like Dunkin Donuts, Chuck E. Cheese, Bed, Bath, and Beyond are perfect examples, as are famous people like Jesse Jackson, Kim Kardashian, and Doris Day.   Even Super Heroes get in on the alliteration action (did you see that one?) with their real names.

Captain America real name isBucky Barnes.  The Hulks real name is Bruce Banner. Spider-Man goes by Peter Parker.  Superman’s real name (Clark Kent) has the same sound (although it doesn’t start with the same letter), but his girlfriend Lois Lane does.

Alliteration can also be found in poetry, music and literature.  William Shakespeare clearly had a handle on the topic when he wrote “Good night! Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow.” (Romeo and Juliet).  Edgar Allen Poe opened his poem The Raven with “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary…”  But my favorite poetic alliteration comes from Paul McCartney’s song, Let it Be. Inspired by a dream about his late mother, Paul wrote the song that includes my favorite alliteration, “Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.”

In my research of the topic, I was amazed at the lack of picture books written in the alliterative form.  I did manage to come across books at my local library.

If You Were Alliteration written by Trisha Speed Shaskan, illustrated by Sara Gray, explains by example what alliteration is and then gives an example.  “If you were alliteration, you would be the same sound repeated at the beginning of two or more words in a phrase or a sentence.” Ms. Shaskan used “Ulysses the Unicorn spots a UFO as he makes a U-turn on his unicycle” as her example. The illustrations are colorful and delightful.  Beyond the definition and examples of alliteration, the author has included a game to play, a glossary of terms and where you can go to learn more about alliteration.  You’ll have to check out the book for the instructions for the game!

Walter Was Worried was written by and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.  Not only is this delightful book written in alliteration, the illustrations include the emotion the characters were feeling “when the sky grew dark”.  You will have to check this one out.

Of the few books I found on alliteration, Betty’s Burgled Bakery, written and illustrated by Travis Nichols is clearly my favorite!  It fits in the “graphic novel” category although it is a picture book.  When Betty arrives at work to find everything missing, she calls the “gumshoo zoo” detective agency to report “A bread bandit burgled my bakery before breakfast!”  To find out how the case is solved, you’ll just have to read the book!

I am lucky to have been blessed with a lifelong love of learning, blessed with friends who fancy writing as much as I do and the opportunity to share my stories with you all.  Thanks for stopping by!

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The Journey Begins

Welcome

We are a team of writers aiming to engage readers, young and old alike, in children’s literature.

Candice, Gabrielle, Kathy, Tina, Sandra and Yvona.