Book Reviews

Book Review – Swing Sideways

Welcome once more to our book review section. This month I am reviewing Swing Sideways, a middle-grade novel by Nanci Turner Steveson published by HarperCollins in 2016. In Swing Sideways, Annie Stockton and her parents leave the city for a summer in the country where Annie has been promised freedom. It’s a rare gift given her mother controls and over-schedules most of Annie’s life. When Annie meets California who is staying on her grandfather’s farm, freedom goes into over-drive. California takes Annie on wild and secret adventures, at the top of the list the quest to find the ponies California’s mom rode as a child. Once the ponies are found, surely California’s mother and grandfather will reunite. But too many secrets lurk underneath the surface for Annie and California to have a smooth ride. Friendships, parenting and the art of letting go are all examined through Annie’s emotional journey to growing independence.

Because I like to change things up a bit, I asked Nanci Turner Steveson to help me review Swing Sideways. Our conversation is in the video below.

Pitch It to Me

~ THE PITCH IT TO ME CHALLENGE ~

Welcome back to the Pitch It To Me Challenge! We are thankful to all you WONDERful readers for stopping by to support a new round of creatives. These ladies have stepped up to the plate and forced me to work harder than ever to craft a punchy pitch. But first, let’s visit the results of the last challenge. Guest star Dr. Mira Reisberg hit a home run with her delightful pitch of author Patricia Saunders’ beautifully composed story. But if you know Mira, this is hardly a surprise. She’s a Rockstar! I’m grateful to both of them for joining us.

And speaking of gratitude (which there can’t be enough of during this challenging and uncertain time), I am pleased to have fellow 12×12’er Kaylynn Johnsen join us with her pitch for DON’T KICK THE DUCK, a humorous story with an unforgettable character. Kaylynn is a hard-working author waiting in excitement for her debut book to come out with AACP Publishing. A big congrats to Kaylynn!

To round out this challenge, I have one of the brightest stars in the Kidlit community joining us with a pitch to knock your socks off. It’s award-winning author NANCY CHURNIN! (Insert shouts of joy!) Nancy’s list of published works is phenomenal and continues to grow with each passing year. She is an expert word weaver, bringing us stories of people who have made our world a better place. And . . . she is one tough challenger!

As always, I’m including photos, links, and additional information about Kaylynn and Nancy below. Be sure to check out what they are up to, and support Nancy by ordering or requesting your library to purchase any of her lovely books (especially her two newest books, BEAUTIFUL SHADES OF BROWN, THE ART OF LAURA WHEELER WARING and FOR SPACIOUS SKIES: KATHERINE LEE BATES AND THE INSPIRATION FOR “AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL”).

And now for the challenge! Take a look at the three pitches in the voting box. They are in no particular order so you’ll never know whose is whose (the author’s, mine, or our special guest-star pitcher). Vote for your favorite, and if you are so inclined, leave a comment, too. We love hearing from our readers!

You have until June 1, 2020, to cast your vote. Please vote only once, but feel free to tell your friends about us and get them in on the action.

 

ABOUT KAYLYNN:

Some of my earliest memories involve storytelling. I remember laying under quilts with the silver needles flashing in and out, burning marshmallows around roaring fires, and sitting still as a mouse while the grown-ups spilled story after story into my thirsty ears. “Remember when” were, and still are, some of my favorite words.

I received an offer of publication from AACP Publishing for the first three books in the Lottie Series. I am pretty sure I did some awkwardly uncoordinated dance, and I use that word loosely, of joy. I look forward to sharing more and more stories with more and more people.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Instagram (@kaylynnjohnsen), Twitter (@johnsen66k), Pinterest (@kaylynnjohnsen), Facebook (@kaylynnjohnsen), or Website (www.kaylynnjohnsen.com)

ABOUT NANCY:

Nancy Churnin is the award-winning author of eight picture book biographies with a ninth due in 2021. Beautiful Shades of Brown, The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring, is A Mighty Girl pick that will be featured at the 2020 Ruby Bridges Reading Festival at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn. in May. The William Hoy Story, a Texas 2X2 pick, has been on multiple state reading lists. Manjhi Moves a Mountain is the winner of the 2018 South Asia Book Award and a Junior Library Guild selection. Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank is on the 2020 Notable Book for a Global Society list from the International Literacy Association. Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing is a 2019 Sydney Taylor and National Council for the Social Studies Notable. Nancy graduated cum laude from Harvard, has a masters from Columbia and lives in Plano, Texas with her husband, a dog named Dog and two cantankerous cats.
SOCIAL MEDIA: 
Facebook (Nancy Churnin Children’s Books)
Twitter (@nchurnin)
Instagram (@nchurnin)
Website (www.nancychurnin.com)
PURCHASE LINKS: 

 

 

 

 

For Spacious Skies: Katherine Lee Bates and the Inspiration for “America the Beautiful”

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Interabang Books (located in Dallas, Texas!)

Beautiful Shades of Brown, The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Interabang Books (located in Dallas, Texas!)

 

CLOSING REMARKS

I cannot thank everyone enough for contributing to this challenge. I always look forward to seeing what our readers like best and having the opportunity to offer fresh ideas with feedback to our brave pitchers. Here is a last round of applause for Dr. Mira Reisberg and Patricia Saunders for their support and super pitches! And best of luck to Kaylynn Johnsen and Nancy Churnin in this new round! Until next time . . .

 

Finding Creativity

Finding Inspiration in Nature

Hi, Wonderers! Thanks for being here as we focus on finding creativity, this time from illustrator Lisa Johnston Hancock. Lisa and I met when our kiddos became friends in preschool–they’re both big into bugs and being creative. Her picture book, YELLOW-SPECKLED BLACKBIRD, written by Dylan Pritchett, released February 18th with MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing.

Candice: Welcome to the Wonder of Words (and today Wonder Of Pictures!), Lisa. You know I adore your nature-infused paintings. Where did you get the inspiration for how you wanted to visually tell the story of the Yellow-Speckled Blackbird? LJH 3.14 pic1

Lisa: I get inspiration from many different sources. I like to visit parks, zoos, beaches or anywhere to see actual birds in action. My children are also great sources of inspiration for poses. They love watching me work and get really excited when I ask them to model for me. I keep a folder of reference photos for birds, children and environment that I use as inspiration. I knew that the bird was going to be a Starling and the story would take place in an urban environment to illustrate how we see nature all around us.

We don’t have to be out in “nature” to appreciate the natural world.

I worked on these illustrations almost 2 years ago and at that time, I was working strictly in watercolor and beginning to explore digital media. The majority of this book was created traditionally with a little bit of digital for editing.

Candice: What is your favorite part of the creative process?

Lisa: My favorite part of the creative process is working through color schemes. I find color to be the most challenging part of illustrating a picture book and I like the challenge. The color palette can visually express the mood or tone of a story so it’s important to get it right. I will try out several different color palettes before I settle on one.

Candice: Color palettes do make such a difference! I don’t think I really understood that until I started studying picture books. Do you have other creative outlets or hobbies? How do they cross into your artwork?

Lisa: I love birds, insects, animals, trees and plant life. Basically, exploring nature whenever I have the chance. We recently moved to California and hummingbirds are EVERYWHERE! We have several species that hang around all year because the climate is so mild. Any extra time that I have is spent with my two children. I would say that yes, they definitely cross over into my artwork. LJH 3.14 pic2

Candice: I enjoy seeing all your California creatures come alive on your social media. Do you have any tips you’d like to share about finding creativity?

Lisa: I would say that if you are struggling, go for a walk or pencil in a coffee date with a fellow creative. What I like most about this area is that the people are so friendly. I think it’s because the weather is so nice. The traffic is not great, as you may have heard. Be that as it may, I have found that other illustrators are ready and willing to meet up for a coffee and drawing session or to talk of creative things. It is incredibly inspirational to have an artist community. It doesn’t even have to be local. With social media, you can reach out to other creatives just to say hi, or ask what brush they used. As creatives we tend to be introverts and I’m somewhere in the middle. I try to put myself out there and I recommend that you do the same.

Candice: I agree, social media has definitely helped me as an extroverted introvert. It’s tough to put yourself out there but the payback is so worth it. The critique group behind this shared blog is my case in point! Creativity usually seems to lead to more creativity. Do you have another book project you’re working on that you could give us a hint about?

Lisa: I recently finished illustrations for “Sophie’s New Song” that will be self-published by author and psychologist, Michelle Whitfield, in April. I’m also working on some promotional material for her.

My goal for 2020 is to complete a dummy for a picture book that I wrote, as well as a few finished illustrations that I can share with publishers. In October, I attended a workshop at the Highlights Foundation and received some really helpful, constructive feedback. I will be working on that this summer and possibly attending the SCBWI conference in L.A. I mean, I’m so close now.

Candice: That’s right! No excuse not to go. I cannot wait for your picture book to be submission ready. Having seen a mock-up dummy I know how amazing it is. Thanks so much for being here today!

Y’all be sure to check out Lisa’s artwork on her website and social media links. You can request YELLOW-SPECKLED BLACKBIRD at your local indie bookstore or online at Bookshop.org which also helps support independent booksellers.

LJH march14Lisa Johnston Hancock is an award-winning studio artist, picture book illustrator, and art educator. She enjoys creating work that focuses on environmental education, encouraging a lifelong positive attitude toward the natural world. Lisa recently moved with her husband and two children from sunny Southern Alabama to sunny Southern California.

www.lisajohnstonhancock.com
www.instagram.com/lisajohnstonhancock
www.twitter.com/LisaJHancockArt
www.facebook.com/LisaJohnstonHancockArt

For this month’s Call to Creativity, go for a walk. Observe the nature around you. Comment with an observation that inspires you and a random comment will win a picture book critique!

About, Book Reviews, Finding Creativity

David Harrison: Fifty Years, One Hundred Books

2020 is David Harrison’s 50th year of writing for children. In that time, he has penned more than 100 books, including 21 poetry collections. His books have won numerous awards, have been translated and anthologized. He is Drury University’s poet laureate. David Harrison Elementary School in Missouri is named for him. He has spoken at conferences, workshops, and visited hundreds of schools.

After Dark, David’s 97th book and 20th collection of poetry was released earlier this month. Three more are scheduled for publication later this year, and one for 2021.

His first book – a picture book, The Boy with a Drum – was published October 1, 1969. His second, Little Turtle’s Big Adventure, was read on the air by Captain Kangaroo. His third, “The Book of Giant Stories,” won a Christopher Award.
Many of David’s books combine nature, science, poetry and humor. Both science and poetry require observation and the ability to describe what is observed. As a biologist and a poet, David has developed a lifelong habit of watching wildlife – and writing about it.
After Dark was inspired by sitting on the patio, listening and watching night life by the lake – as well as family camping trips from when he was a child. The 21 poems featured here are chock full of interesting scientific facts.

His last book, And the Bullfrogs Sing (Holiday House, 2019), is a free verse poem about the life cycle of frogs, accentuated by the chorus Rumm, Rumm, Rumm” and other bullfrog noises.David’s love of nature began when he was a youngster, camping with his parents (who also instilled in him a love of reading) and playing in his backyard. He studied biology in college and has two science degrees. Before he began to write, he worked as a pharmacologist and parasitologist. But it was a creative writing class he took while a science major at Drury in the 1960s, and a professor who encouraged him to write, that launched his writing career.
David’s ideas for poems and stories “appear everywhere in everyday life.” For example, one afternoon when David found insects under his welcome mat, he wrote this:

Bugs moved under
my welcome mat.
If bugs can’t read,
explain that.
I’ve always said
that bugs are pests,
but bugs who read
are welcome guests.
(From BUGS: POEMS ABOUT CREEPING THINGS, Front Street, Incorporated, 2007.)


About poetry, David says:
“Poetry ranges from doggerel to sublime. At its worst, it should be shot on sight. At its best, it protects our language and reminds both writer and reader that every word has meaning and only the right one will do for the purpose at hand.”
When writing poetry collections, David tries to find the cadence and sound that fits the subject. He looks for ways to make each poem stand alone, but still fit the collection. He avoids common, over-used meter and rhyme schemes like a-b-c-b. He says, “I want my menu to feature a variety of offerings so readers don’t grow weary of the same-old-same-old.” He may combine various poetic forms with free verse poems in the same collection. Often, a poem will show him what form to use – “it just sort of develops, and I roll with it,” he says.

His advice to aspiring authors is “Dare to be different.” He explains: “By that I mean know the market but don’t worship it. If you read a book you like, enjoy it and move on. No point following someone else’s idea. Listen to your own voice, your own experiences, your own beliefs and feelings and passions.”

Uncategorized

Shel Silverstein

Sultan of Spoonerisms

By Gabrielle Copeland Schoeffield

I recently had cause to read two more of Shel Silverstein’s children’s books (I have been slowly going through his entire collection). I found Runny Babbit and Runny Babbit Returns delightful, nonsensical, and thought-provoking. Both books are written using a literary device called a spoonerism.


According to the Meriam Webster dictionary, a spoonerism is defined as “a transposition of usually initial sounds of two or more words (as in tons of soil for sons of toil).”
As the story goes, Reverend William Archibald Spooner, a clergyman and educator in Britain was nervous when it came to public speaking. He often twisted up the words as they fell from his mouth. As a result, things like ‘a crushing blow’ came out as ‘a blushing crow.’ Soon enough his name inspired the term which is still used today.

Each book, a collection of Shel Silverstein poems, accompanied by Silverstein artwork, are written in the spoonerism fashion. The first poem in Runny Babbit gives the simplest of explanations. “…instead of saying “purple hat,” they all say “hurple pat…”

My favorite is BEDDY TEAR STETS GUCK.
Runny Babbit went to see
His good friend Beddy Tear,
Who had some nice heet swoney
That she was glad to share.
They slobbled it and gurped it—
It gluck to them like stue.
Said Beddy Tear to Runny,
“I think I’m thuck on you.”

Other examples of spoonerisms include a well-boiled icicle rather than a well-oiled bicycle, Its roaring pain instead of its pouring rain, or I bit my hunny phone instead of I hit my funny bone.
Let’s have some fun! Can you figure out what the spoonerisms below are?

Kugs and Hisses       Gocks and Saloshes       Cat and Hoat

How many can you come up with?

 

Best in Show, Uncategorized

The Wonder of the Littles, a Board Book Series

Hello Everyone!

Welcome to our February 2020 blog post! We have such a special treat today! I have always wondered how authors of board books create their craft with such limited space and word count. I am excited to present author Julie Abery to you and her wonderful strategies for writing and showing in her books. Her adorable series, entitled Little Animal Friends, is precious in the hands of readers at every age level.

TS: Hi Julie, Congratulations on your upcoming releases this month with Amicus Ink. Thank you for spending time today sharing your new board books and the process you use to create them.

JA: Thank you for having me on your blog today. I am thrilled to share a little about the Little Animal Friends board book series with you. The next two Littles, Little Hippo and Little Monkey, illustrated by Suzie Mason and published by Amicus Ink launch in a few short weeks, 25 February 2020.

TS: Whether drafting or revising, how do you know when it is necessary to show action, scene and sensory elements.

JA: My first board book, Little Tiger, started life as a list of tigerish vocabulary. When I sat down to write a story for Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words contest in 2016 (www.viviankirkfield.com), this is what I saw:

Paper Tiger

roaring/stomping

stalk

pounce/play

jump

hunt

chuffing

growling/prowling

grrrrr

Don’t you love ‘chuffing’ – it’s a snorting sound that tigers make! Sadly, it didn’t make the final story, but what I saw in this list was lots of action, visual, and sensory words. Paper Tiger became Little Tiger and the -ing verbs became rhyming lines two and three of my quatrains.

Little Tiger

prowling,

growling,

on the jungle floor.

Each book is based on the principle that baby animals act just like our human little ones – all about action and exploring, and sometimes overstepping the line, so these action words are key!

The books have a consistent structure, but each animal has its own adventure. They have a maximum of 80 words over the 10 spreads. The first line of each quatrain is fixed, Little Tiger, Little Panda, Little Hippo, Little Monkey etc. Then each spread follows a similar pattern with the problem climax on spread 6 and Mama to the rescue on spread 7. I know that generally we aim for the protagonist to solve their own problem, but I felt that as young animals and children grow, they need a helping hand from time to time.

 TS: This is really fascinating. We read board books often yet I do not think we are fully aware of the structure. Are there specific strategies, tools or resources you use to incorporate more showing/descriptive language?

JA: I research each animal before I begin, maybe in the library or online. I also try and find animals from different environments to change the kind of action verbs needed too, and where possible I look for animal specific vocabulary to make my text as authentic as possible. I can often be found with rhymezone.com open on my computer when writing, both as a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary.

TS: That is definitely a great resource. Would you like to share an example of before and after where you needed to show more and found the right words to paint the image for the reader?

JA: Absolutely! Little Hippo meets an Oxpecker in his search for a playmate. In real life hippos and oxpeckers have a symbiotic relationship, so this felt like a good match. Spread 3 started life as

Little Hippo

puzzling,

nuzzling,

finds a playful bird….TELLING

So I changed it too…

Little Hippo

puzzling,

nuzzling

finds a red-billed bird…

…much more visual and lovely alliteration. ‘Red-billed bird’ rolls off the tongue, sounds great and describes an Oxpecker beautifully.

TS: You work through this with such preciseness and clarity. What a challenge. Writing is about balance. How do you know you’ve got it just right? What tips or suggestions do you have for writers in terms of striving for that balance of showing versus telling?

JA: This is a tricky question. You can never be certain that you have everything right, after all editors often ask for revisions. However, with the Littles I know I have a pretty good balance when each stanza moves the story along, the rhyme and rhythm flow fluidly, and the words leave lots of room for the illustrator.

TS: Thank you very much for sharing your gift of words, and I know I for one am excited to try this type of writing. Wishing you every success with the adorable Littles!

Check out Julie’s bio, social media, and find her books on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Julie Author Bio:

Julie Abery is a children’s author and former Pre-K teacher. Originally from England, she has spent half of her life living in Europe, bringing up her three (now grown up) children and experiencing new languages and cultures. She now calls Switzerland home.

Julie’s debut board books Little Tiger and Little Panda illustrated by Suzie Mason, published in March 2019 with Amicus Ink. Little Hippo and Little Monkey joined the Little Animal Friends series in February 2020; a nonfiction picture book biography entitled Yusra Swims, Creative Editions, illustrated by Sally Deng in February 2020; a true story THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN, Kids Can Press (Fall 2020) and nonfiction picture book bio SAKAMOTO AND THE SUGAR-DITCH KIDS, Kids Can Press (Spring 2021).

Julie is represented by Essie White of Storm Literary Agency.

Where to find Julie:

Website: https://littleredstoryshed.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @juliedawnabery

Facebook: julieabery

Instagram: juliedawnabery

Book Reviews

Author Review – Maggie Stiefvater

Welcome to the review section of Wonder Words. So far in this section, I have reviewed a book of folktales, a middle-grade novel, two non-fiction picture books and an illustrated book for children on Aboriginal culture. You can find the links to these reviews at the bottom of this post. This time I’m switching back to fiction, exploring YA and reviewing an author rather than a book.

A few months ago one of my blog partners, Candice, recommended Maggie Stiefvater. I have learned that Candice’s recommendations are always worth reading, so I searched out Maggie Stiefvater and, by my count, discovered she is the author or co-author of twenty books, all published since 2008! That is a phenomenal output. With that number to choose from it was pretty hard to narrow it down to the two I would base this review on. I knew I didn’t want to read a full series because that wouldn’t show me her versatility, so I picked the first book in the Raven Cycle series, The Raven Boys published in 2012. Then I looked for something that sounded completely different and chose The Scorpio Races, a standalone novel published in 2011 containing flesh-eating water-horses.

Here are snippets from the back cover blurb for each book:

“Even if Blue hadn’t been told her true love would die if she kissed him, she would stay away from boys. Especially the ones from the local private school. Known as Raven Boys, they only mean trouble.”

“It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.”


Such different premises from the same author, and her other books are equally varied.

This is a short description for shiver, the first book in The Shiver Trilogy: “Grace has spent years watching the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf – her wolf – watches back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn’t know why.”

This for Lament: “Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a painfully shy but prodigiously gifted musician. She’s about to find out she’s also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries.”

And this for All the Crooked Saints: “Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado, is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.”


If pulling crazy ideas into coherent stories isn’t enough, Maggie Stiefvater also develops interesting and engaging characters and writes beautifully. Her stories are compelling, mysterious, lyrical and quirky. If you can place a dead-boy-living in a story and have the reveal seem so natural and expected, then you are a master storyteller. If you can cause a reader to fall in love with a vicious, man-eating water-horse then you are a master in mood and character development. Maggie Stiefvater is this and much more. I stand by Candice’s recommendation 100% – Maggie Stiefvater’s books are worth reading!

Links to previous book reviews by Katharine on Wonder Words:
Once Long Ago (a book of folktales)
The Mapmakers Race (middle-grade fiction)
The Diamond and the Boy (picture book nonfiction)
The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown (picture book nonfiction)
Playground (children’s illustrated nonfiction)

Pitch It to Me

~THE PITCH IT TO ME CHALLENGE~

Yes, you read that correctly. The Pitch It To Me Challenge is back and kicking off this WONDERful blog’s new year! But before we view the new round of pitches, let’s take a moment to congratulate Shannon Stocker on her big win in the last round with her pitch for Rinda Beach’s story, SAFETY POWER SUPER STARS. Can “U” say a million thanks to Rinda and Shannon for stepping up to the plate?

This time we have two lovely challengers that I could spend all day talking about (but I won’t since I should really get to the point). The first is author/illustrator Patricia Saunders, whose debut picture book, MOTHER TERESA: THE LITTLE PENCIL IN GOD’S HAND, came out last year with Spork/Clear Fork Publishing. She sends us her pitch for another picture book manuscript, AMY HEARS THE BIRDSONG AIRS: AMERICAN COMPOSER AMY CHENEY BEACH, a story that captured my attention with its soft, poetic flow.

Patricia and I are in for a tough challenge, though, because guess who I asked to be our super guest-star pitcher? None other than the extraordinary Dr. Mira Reisberg, AKA The Picture Book Whisperer, an editor and art director at Spork Children’s Books, and the director/instructor/”fairy godmother” at The Children’s Book Academy. Oh, and she just happens to be an author and illustrator, too! Yes, I really did it this time. I brought in the ultimate challenger.

If you want to know more about Patricia and Mira (and trust me, you do), make sure to check out the photos, information, social media links, and selected book titles below. You might even have time to jump in on Mira’s upcoming illustration course at CBA. Tina and I both assist in the course, and I can’t say enough about what it did for my own writing career.

Now for the challenge! Take a look at the three pitches in the voting box. They are in no particular order so you’ll never know whose is whose (the author’s, mine, or our special guest-star pitcher). Vote for your favorite, and if you are so inclined, leave a comment, too. We love hearing from our readers!

You have until February 1, 2020, to cast your vote. Please vote only once, but feel free to tell your friends about us and get them in on the action.

 

ABOUT PATRICIA SAUNDERS:

Patricia Ann Saunders was born into an Air Force family living and travelling all over the United States, South America and Japan. Today she resides in Texas. Retired from teaching art, she now includes author/illustrator as part of her creativity. What could be more fun than to spend time doing what she loves? Only to spend time with her wonderful family.

Patricia’s Book, MOTHER TERESA: THE LITTLE PENCIL IN GOD’S HAND is available through Amazon, or on the Clear Fork Publishing website.

Connect with Patricia at www.patriciasaunders.com, or on Twitter @writersaunders.

 

ABOUT DR. MIRA REISBERG:

Mira Reisberg has a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on children’s literature. She is an acquiring Editor and Art Director at Clearfork/Spork and is also the Director of the Children’s Book Academy. Her students have published over 370 books and won every major North American award. Mira’s 8 published children’s books have won awards and sold over 600,000 copies. She lives in a 100 year-old house in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two cats.

Mira has been instrumental in helping many authors and illustrators get published and teaches many of the courses at the Children’s Book Academy, including the upcoming Craft and Business of Illustrating Children’s Books with HMH Acquiring Art Director & Senior Designer, Andrea Miller. She is proud to have edited and art directed the following books:

 

 

 

 

 

Connect with Mira at www.mirareisberg.com, on Twitter @MiraReisberg, or through the Children’s Book Academy at www.childrensbookacademy.com

CONCLUDING REMARKS:

It’s so much fun to be in another Pitch It To Me Challenge! Thank you, dear readers, for joining in and casting a vote. And thanks to Patricia Saunders and Dr. Mira Reisberg for sharing your time and words with us to make this blog all the more WONDERful. Until next time . . .

Uncategorized

Jubilee and Creativity

Hi, Wonder of Words readers! Today’s guest on our Finding Creativity focused post is Alabama author, Karyn Tunks. I’ve been lucky enough to meet her in person a few times and she is one of those helpful, encouraging writers who makes the kidlit world the awesome place it is. I first met her when her picture book, JUBILEE, released.

KWTdec1st
Metro-Mobile Literacy Council’s Young Authors’ Conference

A jubilee is a fascinating, rare phenomenon that occurs when a perfect condition of low oxygenated water drives millions of flounder, crabs, etc to the surface, ripe for the picking. You definitely need to check out her book to find out more. Welcome, Karyn!

Karyn: Thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed for your blog. It was fun to reflect! The photos were taken when the illustrator, Julie Buckner, was visiting Fairhope to plan out her illustrations and there was a jubilee! We tell the story about it on my website: http://www.karyntunks.com/jubilee.html

Candice: That is so neat y’all were able to experience a jubilee on her visit. What are the odds?! Where did you get the inspiration for JUBILEE?

KWT: I have always loved picture books and loved writing but it was never my intention to actually write a book for children! The inspiration for JUBILEE was a newspaper article about this rare occurrence that happens along the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. I became so fascinated by it that I began doing research and asking people I met from the area if they had ever experienced a jubilee. The array of stories told by people who grew up along the bay were fascinating. I was reflecting on what I had learned and the stories told to me and POP-the idea came to mind that it would make a great story!

CMC: The POP of an idea is the best. What is your favorite part of the creative process?

KWT: I really enjoy all aspects of the writing process (except for detailed editing). Coming up with ideas has never been a problem. I keep a notebook and jot down ideas for stories, interesting character traits, possible character names, and even overheard conversations that intrigue me or make me laugh. Building the basic premise for a story is always exciting because the possibilities are endless. I also like working out problems such as which direction to take a story or character. This is why I tell people that I do much of my “writing” when I’m out running. It’s a time when I can let my mind wander and that’s when the creativity really happens.

CMC: Great idea on keeping a notebook handy. It’s amazing what a wandering mind can come up with. Do you have other creative outlets or hobbies? If so, do they ever cross into your writing?

KWT: For writers, just about everything we do has potential to find its way into our stories. I enjoy volunteering for issues that are personally important to me. In the summer, I volunteer for Share the Beach, a sea turtle preservation program along the Alabama Gulf Coast. On my early morning patrols looking for turtle tracks, I pick up trash left behind by visitors to our beaches. The amount of trash is staggering! I started out wanting to write about sea turtles but instead I am working on a middle grade novel about trash!

CMC: I cannot wait to read it! The kids and I love volunteering with the Alabama Coastal Cleanup each fall. Do you have any tips you’d like to share about finding creativity?

KWT: Donald Graves, a teacher of writing, reminds us to constantly be on the lookout for ideas. Like artists, inspiration for writers can come from anywhere at anytime. That’s why keeping notes of random occurrences that catch your attention is so important. Plus, the more creative ideas collected, the more you have to choose from when the urge to write hits.

CMC: Great tip. Creativity seems to inspire more creativity. Do you have another book project you’re working on that you could give us a hint about?

KWT: I am always working on another book! My next picture book will be out in Spring 2020. It is a picture book biography about the blind artist, Ricky Trione. It was a challenge to figure out the best way to tell his story but after several weeks and many attempts it all came together on my daily run. I couldn’t get home fast enough to put it on paper. I have another picture book manuscript out for review and two middle grade novels that are at different points of completion. I have far more ideas for stories than I have time to write them!

CMC: Exciting stuff! Good luck and thanks so much for being here today. Y’all check out her website at www.karyntunks.com to see where she’ll be reading and signing next, ordering information, and teaching guides.

Tunks author photoKaryn W. Tunks is Professor of Education at the University of South Alabama. She has more than 30 years of experience teaching learners at every level from preschool through graduate school. Karyn shares her love of children’s literature by writing picture books about her adopted home state of Alabama. Titles include: JUBILEE! (2012), USS ALABAMA: Hooray for the Mighty A! (2015), and Mardi Gras in Alabama! (2019). Her next picture book about the life of Ricky Trione will be released in Spring 2020.

For your Call to Creativity exercise, peruse the paper or news media sites to spark ideas. Do you carry a notebook to jot down things that catch your attention? Now is the time to start if you don’t! Comment with something that sparks inspiration in you, or a picture of your creativity-catching notebook, and one random commenter will receive a picture book critique from me.

Book Reviews

What are you grateful for?

The Thanksgiving holiday is behind us. Most folks gathered with family and friends, eating the same menu as last year and sharing our blessings.

Now is the time for frantic holiday shopping and listing what we wish for rather than what we are grateful for. But we need to be grateful each and every day of the year. It is still important to cultivate the attitude of gratitude.

Here are some books that teach children the importance of cultivating gratitude.

 

ThankU: Poems of Gratitude by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena Myles. Millbrook Press, 2019.

This collection of poems by more than 30 poets shows that we can – and should – be grateful in all seasons. The opening poem, Giving Thanks by Joe Bruchac, tells us each day is a gift to be treasured. Some poems are not explicitly about gratitude. Instead, they give thanks for the sky, dimples, shoes, birds, snow, a rock on the beach. Some are serious; others are funny. Each showcases a different poetic form; these are explained in the back of the book.

 

Thank you, Earth: A love letter to our planet by April Pulley Sayre. Greenwillow Books, 2018.

Thank You, Earth: A Love Letter to Our Planet

Like many of the poems in Miranda Paul’s collection, this poem and beautiful photo essay is an ode of gratitude – in this case, to our earth. The poem begins:

“Dear earth,

Thank you for water and those that float,

for slippery seaweed and stone.

Thank you for mountains and minerals,

that strengthen bills and bone.”

This simple, powerful message helps us appreciate our world. The back of the book contains three pages of scientific information.

 

The Thank You Book by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018.

Thank you isn’t just for learning manners. It’s also when something makes a little hum – a happy little hum – inside you and you want to answer back.”

So begins Mary Lyn Ray’s latest book that teaches about giving thanks for both small and large things in our lives. The text explores appreciation for laps, books, jackets, puddles, and the earth we live on. It tells us that thank you “is also for when hurt and sad and not-so-good gets better”. The lyrical text and detailed pencil and watercolor illustrations make the characters and the concept of gratitude come alive to young readers.

 

We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga by Traci Soreli, illustrated by Frané Lessac.

Charlesbridge, 2018.

This beautiful, lyrical picture book focuses on the Cherokee custom of celebrating blessings as well as reflecting on struggles. The story winds its way through the seasons looking at expressions of gratitude in fall, winter, spring, and summer. Each season begins with “we say Otsaheliga / oh – yah – LEE – hay – lee – gah / we are grateful.

 

Thankful by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Archie Preston. Zonderkids, 2017.

The gardener’s thankful for every green sprout” is the opening line. The fun, rhyming text and whimsical illustrations with bold lines and soft colors celebrate daily blessings. The poem features examples of what people are grateful for: the gardener, for green sprouts; the painter, for color and light; the poet, for words that rhyme; children, for storytime. This great read-aloud reminds us of how special we are.

 

Look and Be Grateful by Tomie DePaola. Holiday House, 2015.

The short (37 words) text of this beautiful book encourages us to open our eyes, look around, and be grateful.

 

The Thankful Book by Todd Parr. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012.

The story opens with “Every day I try to think about the things I’m thankful for.” The main character tries to think of something he appreciates each day: his shadow, music, his hair. Bold lines, bright colors, and easy, playful text encourage children to find something they can be grateful for.

We all need to learn to express gratitude each and every day. Here is a triolet* poem I wrote a few years ago:

Thanksgiving

is gratitude

for living.

Thanksgiving.

For fun, for food,

for fortitude,

Thanksgiving

is gratitude.

 

What are you grateful for today?

 

 

* The triolet is a short, 8-line poem of repetition, The first line of the poem is used three times and the second line is used twice. There are only 3 other lines to write: 2 of those lines rhyme with the first line, the other rhymes with the second line.