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.

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Marigolds and Miracles

Before deciding what topic to choose for my blog post, I reviewed a list of literary devices, where I stumbled on the word malapropisms. I was immediately intrigued.
According to the Miriam Webster dictionary, a malapropism is “the usually unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase… the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context.”

A little research uncovered incidents throughout history, where people used malapropisms unintentionally (or intentionally) in fine literature including the character Dogberry in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and The Merchant of Venice (also by Shakespeare).

Malapropisms aren’t limited to literature. Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy fame) used malapropisms extensively as did comedian Ronnie Barker. The use of malapropisms is what in part makes comedians so funny. I was tickled to find Mary Tyler Moore used them on several occasions when she portrayed Laura Petry on the Dick Van Dyke Show back in the sixties.
But where did the word actually come from? Richard Sheridan’s play, THE RIVALS is littered with the misuse or distortion of words and phrases, although I am sure Sheridan used them intentionally to create humor.


One particularly delightful character in the play, Mrs. Malaprop, frequently uses the wrong word when trying to make her point. Soon after, someone coined the word malapropisms.

This discovery of course, made me smile, as it illicited a memory of a dear friend I had growing up. A dinner table debate caused my friend, who resented one remark in particular, to blurt out, “I resemble that remark,” which only gave further cause for everyone at the table to laugh. When he realized his blunder, he chuckled along with the rest of us. Forever after, it was a joke between us.
Youngsters seem to have a handle on malapropisms without even realizing they do. They can make you laugh until you cry without even trying.
My youngest easily has the market cornered on malapropisms. She is forever coming up with them. My favorite malapropism came from her as we walked through the home and garden section at the local home Improvement store.
With great excitement she shouted, “Mom, Look at all the miracles!”
Yes, she really is my blessing, my marigold!

 

 

For details about malapropisms check out this website: https://literarydevices.net/malapropism/.

If you fancy learning more about Mrs. Malaprop check out this post by Wad Bradford on ThoughtCo  https://www.thoughtco.com/mrs-malaprop-and-origin-of-malapropisms-3973512

 

 

Best in Show

Showing With A Main Character Interview

Hello Everyone! For this blog post, I interviewed a very special person. This time the individual was not another author, but the actual character of my debut picture book, WALKOUT. Many times we discuss how showing in writing can be done through our word choices, to carefully show how a scene unfolds, reveal the emotions a character experiences. Another way to accomplish this is to just have a conversation with the character of the book itself, and that is just what I did. I would like to introduce you to a very determined young girl who wishes to make a difference. Please join me in my conversation with Maddie.

 

Character Interview:

Author Tina Shepardson’s Interview with Main Character, Maddie, From WALKOUT, a picture book

Tina: Hi Maddie. Thank you for stopping by today. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Maddie: Oh sure. I go to Walker Elementary School and I am the oldest in my family. The best part about school is I am in the same class as my best friend Stella. I see her every day, all day long.

Tina: What do you like to do when you are not at school?

Maddie: That’s simple. I love to draw with my crayons and markers and play with my friends.

Tina: I heard you were part of a school walkout recently? Can you tell us a little about it?

Maddie: Yea, I was. Our school was having one but it was only for the big kids and I really wanted to walk out with them.

Tina: How did you become a part of it then?

Maddie: Well, it was School Safety Week and I just thought everyone should be included, not just the big kids.

Tina: That makes perfect sense. Did you walk out with the big kids by yourself?

Maddie: Oh no… I asked my friends for some help and everyone got together during lunch to make signs about safe schools. Even our teacher helped us. Only Stella didn’t.

Tina: I am sure she was just busy.

Maddie: Actually, she was scared. Our principal told us it was for the big kids only. He even said so during announcements. She just didn’t want to get into trouble.

Tina: I understand how she felt. Didn’t you?

Maddie: Yes, I did. But I also didn’t want her to feel left out. I really wanted all my friends to help the big kids stand up for safe schools so I kept asking her to see if she would change her mind. 

Tina: And did she?

Maddie: That was a really busy week at school, plus I had homework every night too. If you want to find out if Stella changed her mind and even how you can help schools stay safe, you have to read WALKOUT. Looks like late Spring 2020 you can read it!

Tina: That is a good idea Maddie, and thank you for telling us about your experience.

Maddie: Bye, see you later!

Book Reviews

Book Review – Playground by Nadia Wheatley

Hi everyone and welcome to my fifth book review. Since I have just been on holiday in Australia, I decided that reviewing an Australian author would be a cool thing to do. Not knowing which book to review, I rocked up to the counter at a local bookshop and asked the assistant for a favourite picture book by an Australian author. She duly presented one to me.  The front cover held lots of promise, including a gold sticker proclaiming it as a short-listed book in the Australian Children’s Book of the Year award a few years ago, so I purchased it with some excitement and without opening it.

My philosophy is to always give an honest review. Unfortunately, while I love the quirky illustrations in the book I purchased, I can’t ignore the two very bad examples of forced rhyme and the cliché around which I suspect the whole book was built.

So, I have abandoned that review and have decided to review instead Playground, a collection of indigenous stories from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compiled by Nadia Wheatley, an Australian writer with an extensive publishing background in picture books, novels, biography and history.

Playground isn’t a picture book, it’s a book with pictures. The pictures are illustrations or photographs interspersed throughout the text. The text is dense but engaging. The title refers to the notion that playing and learning are one: “As kids journeyed with their families from place to place, it was often impossible to tell the difference between playing and learning” (from the Introduction). And from the section The right way of learning: “Older kids also pass on knowledge to the younger ones, especially in the playground of the bush.”

The book is divided into sections that roughly follow a child’s learning journey. Nadia’s introduction to each section and each storyteller is in a rust colour to differentiate it from the actual stories. The stories themselves are written in the voices of the storytellers. There are stories from elders who remember the old ways, stories from the stolen generation and stories from young people growing up in the twenty-first century; some of them don’t make for easy reading. The connection to land, family and tradition is a strong thread throughout the book. In the introduction Nadia writes, “The culture that underlies these narratives is holistic: everything connects no matter which way you come at it.”

While the suggested audience for this book is upper primary, secondary and adults, the stories are accessible for younger children, especially if read aloud by a parent or caregiver.

I appreciate that this blog has a primarily US audience and this book may seem far removed from America. However, I believe that books like this are crucial for all of us who live in a land first occupied by indigenous people. Nadia Wheatley, while not Aboriginal nor a Torres Strait Islander, has compiled these stories with care and empathy, allowing the voices and emotions of the storytellers to shine.

Footnote: Except for the cover, the images on this page are general images from Australia intended to give a feel for the book but they are not from the book itself.

Pitch It to Me

~ THE PITCH IT TO ME CHALLENGE ~

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since our very first PITCH IT TO ME CHALLENGE. I have enjoyed them all and can’t say enough of the authors who bravely pitched their stories here. And of course, the lovely guest pitchers who graciously supported their fellow authors by participating in the challenge, too. Here’s a big THANK YOU to them all, as well as to you, our WONDERful readers.

Thus begins our fifth PITCH IT TO ME CHALLENGE! For those who missed the last one, my pitch took top honors. And although it would be nice to brag (just a little!), the real thanks go to the competitors who forced me to bring my “A” game to the plate. Thank you Shirin Shamsi and Lindsay Leslie for making it a big success!

For this round, meet Rinda Beach, debut author of the chapter book, NEIL ARMSTRONG’S WIND TUNNEL DREAM (May 2019, Beach Girl Press), who has sent in a pitch for her picture book manuscript, SAFETY POWER SUPER STARS. Isn’t the alliteration fabulous?

And speaking of fabulous, have you met our guest-star pitcher for this round yet? It’s Shannon Stocker, whose debut picture book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY, came out last month with Sleeping Bear Press. If you don’t know already, Shannon has stories published in the popular CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL series and has at least one other picture book on the way, LISTEN, with Dial/Random House. Get used to hearing her name, because Shannon is here to stay!

If you want to know more about Rinda and Shannon make sure to take a peek at their photos and bios below!

On to 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 pitcher). Vote for your favorite, and if you are so inclined, leave a comment, too. We love hearing from readers/voters!

You have until October 1, 2019, 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 RINDA:

Rinda never planned to write. She was a second-grade teacher who read and told stories, till the night a bat visited her. The bat inspired her to write. She learned how to edit, thanks to SCBWI, writing classes, and critique partners. Rinda substitute teaches to stay connected to today’s kids. She uses her knowledge and imagination to write stories for them. Her website features a weekly blog and book review for kids. She is also the owner of Beach Girl Press.

Connect with Rinda at www.rindabeach.com, or find her on:

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

You can find Rinda’s book, NEIL ARMSTRONG’S WIND TUNNEL DREAM on Amazon.

 

 

ABOUT SHANNON:

 Shannon Stocker is an award-winning author and proud word nerd who lives in Louisville, KY, with her husband, Greg, and their children, Cassidy and Tye. Her debut picture book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press), released on August 15, 2019. Her next picture book, LISTEN, will be a biography about deaf percussionist, Evelyn Glennie (Dial/Random House), and several of her nonfiction essays have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville, a judge for Rate Your Story, and she created the blog series, Pivotal Moments: inHERview, highlighting transitional life stories of female picture book authors. Cool facts: Currently writing her memoir, Shannon is a medical school graduate, a coma survivor, an RSD/CRPS patient and advocate, and a singer/songwriter who once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. To subscribe to her blog, visit her website, http://www.shannonstocker.com/blog/. She can also be found tweeting positive quotes and mantras @iwriteforkidz. Shannon is represented by Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio.

Look for Shannon’s Book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY at:

Amazon , Barnes & Noble, or her local indie bookstore, Carmichael’s

 

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS:

Will I ever stop with these concluding remarks? No, I don’t think so. It’s where I get to thank our lovely guests, Rinda Beach and Shannon Stocker, for joining in the challenge. If you haven’t read their books, you really should! Thank you for reading their pitches (and mine!) and making this the most SUPER challenge yet. Until next time . . .

 

Finding Creativity, Uncategorized

It’s A Blog & Book Birthday!

Happy birthday to the Wonder of Words blog! Today marks our one year anniversary and we couldn’t have done it without our readers and our awesome guests. So, thank you all! Happy birthday Wonder of Words!

Speaking of awesome guests, today’s blog post is about a story I first read on a twitter pitch event. As soon as I read Amanda Jackson’s query and first lines, I knew this would be a real-live book one day.
wowAJ1
Welcome to the Wonder of Words, Amanda! I’m so glad we connected during Study Hall and in the debut group, New in Nineteen. I’m excited about your beautiful and important book coming out. When and where did you get the inspiration for your square-who-wants-to-roll-like-a-circle story?

It was late 2016, during the one year my husband and I lived in Northern California. We moved there for his job, and the circumstances were such that I didn’t work. That gave me the time and brain-space to discover my love of writing for kids. So, that’s actually when I started writing picture book stories altogether. That’s one reason I will always be thankful for that crazy year.

I have a deep hope for a more inclusive and understanding society. That hope was what inspired this story. Sam is for anyone who feels they don’t fit, in whatever way.

wowaj4

Such a beautiful hope and your book captures that sentiment perfectly. I love it. And it’s amazing what we can accomplish when we have the brain-space! What is your favorite part of the creative process?

I have two favorites:
– Inspiration. Who doesn’t love being inspired?? There’s nothing like discovering a new idea for a new story. It feels like falling in love.
– Revision. After the initial excitement of inspiration, drafting the story can feel like slogging through mud. But once I get it on the page, and it has every element it needs, I love all the little challenges that come with smoothing it out and making it shine.

Falling in inspiration is the best. Do you have other creative outlets or hobbies? Do they ever cross into your writing?

I do! I enjoy cooking, crocheting, and crafting. I haven’t seen them cross into my writing yet, but they do play an important role. Sometimes my writing muscles need a break, and they offer other creative options.

Love the alliteration, Amanda 😉 Do you have any tips about finding creativity?

My best tip would be to try to pay attention. Because I really think creative inspiration is all around us, and it’s more a matter of recognizing it. I do my best to be aware of the moments I feel that creative spark—moments that makes me laugh, curious, explore, cry, ask questions, get angry. Those are usually the moments that hold that starts to stories.

The act of paying attention is so important. 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?

Sure! When I began writing, I naturally gravitated toward more serious stories. Lately I’ve been playing with punchier, sillier stories that make me laugh as I write them. Such a fun change of pace!

I love silly stories, can’t wait to read ‘em! Thanks so much for being here, Amanda. I have My Shape is Sam preordered and am looking forward to Sam rolling in! wowaj2

Blurb: “In this debut picture book, Sam is a square who lives in a world where everyone has a job to do, depending on their shape. But Sam doesn’t want to stack like the other squares…

He wants to roll like a circle!”

Published by Page Street Kids, wonderful illustrations by Lydia Nichols

Here’s the link to her author website where you can preorder My Shape is Sam, out September 17th: www.AmandaJacksonBooks.com

What is a hope you harbor that could inspire others? Comment by Sept 13th with yours, or mention your latest picture book work-in-progress, and as a special birthday gift to our readers, one lucky random comment will be chosen to get a critique not just from me, but from the whole Wonder of Words team!