Welcome to the Spotlight Nancy Tupper Ling and The Story I’ll Tell

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A warm wonderful welcome to picture book author Nancy Tupper Ling and her newest book baby! Stay tuned below on how to enter for a chance to win a signed by the author copy of this sweet book.

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The Story I’ll Tell by Nancy Tupper Ling, illus. by Jessica Lanan (Lee & Low/2016)

A mother imagines the story she’ll tell her son about how he came to be a part of the family — from a branch on a tree to snagged from a dragon queen. But by the story’s end, the mother tells the true story of how he was brought home on a plane, to be loved and cared for as their son. Touching and sweet with lovely illustrations.

Spotlight on Nancy Tupper Ling:

Please tell us the story of how THE STORY I’LL TELL came to be.

The idea for The Story I’ll Tell was one of those rare gifts that come out of the thin air. The inspiration happened as I was driving home from a trip to Connecticut (plug for my home state). As I was day dreaming, this image popped into my head—a baby arriving on a couple’s doorstep. Then I envisioned the father telling his toddler all these fantastical stories about how she came to be in their lives. (I’m always on the lookout for “good father” stories). The one line that kept repeating in my head was “Still, there are times when I think I will tell you the truth, for the truth is a beautiful story too.” In 2013 my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, sent my manuscript out into the world, and we waited. Ironically I was in the middle of a writers’ conference when I received the “Happy Dance” phone call. The Story I’ll Tell had been accepted by my dream publisher, Lee & Low. Of course, there are always more stories to tell.

What was the biggest challenge to writing this story? Did it change much from your original draft?

I wrote The Story I’ll Tell as a poem first. I often start my stories that way. Surprisingly I didn’t have to revise too much along the way (miracles happen) but plot is always my weakness. Making sure the various stories flowed smoothly from one to another and that there was a momentum was what took the most finagling. Still, it was definitely the manuscript that required the least amount of revisions (so far, shh). My book Double Happiness took ten years and those revisions fill a 3-inch binder. The biggest change suggested by Lee and Low was to make the main characters a mother and son, which isn’t typical when it comes to Chinese adoptions. I think it works nicely in The Story I’ll Tell, though. To think that my wee daydream become a reality in between the covers of book still seems pretty unreal.

The illustrations are so lovely, such a perfect compliment to this sweet story. What surprised you most about the illustrations? Do you have a favorite?

It’s always such a surprise when an author sees the final illustrations. Jessica Lanan’s work blew me away. The spreads are dreamy, like my original inspiration. My favorite page is the one where the parents are walking on the beach at night and the child floats in on a wave. Knowing this, my parents surprised me with the original piece for my 50th birthday this year. How cool is that?

About Nancy: Nancy Tupper Ling is the winner of the prestigious Writer’s Digest Grand Prize and the Pat Parnell Poetry Award.  She draws her inspiration from the multicultural background of her family and the interwoven fabric of familial culture which is, on the surface, seemingly everyday.  She is the author of My Sister, Alicia May (Pleasant Street Press), Double Happiness (Chronicle Books), The Story I’ll Tell (Lee & Low Books) and the founder of Fine Line Poets (www.finelinepoets.com), Currently she resides in Walpole, Massachusetts with her husband, Vincent, and their two girls.

For more about Nancy and her books, check out her web site, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

The author has generously offered to send a signed copy to a lucky winner. To win a copy of The Story I’ll Tell for yourself, a child, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, July 30th by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, August 2nd (be sure to include your email address).

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!

 

 

Welcome to the Spotlight Maria Gianferrari and COYOTE MOON

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I’m over the moon (get it?) happy to shine the spotlight (or maybe the moonlight) on children’s author Maria Gianferrari and her nonfiction picture book:

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Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Begram Ibatoulline (Roaring Brook Press/2016)

Coyote hunts at night – stalking mice, rabbit, geese, but not until the night is almost over does she successfully capture prey, food for her hungry pups, waiting for her in the den. Gorgeous illustrations capture this sleek predator on the prowl in a suburban town.

Those of you who know me know I am very fond of all animals. I have a degree in zoology and was an educator at a zoo, and volunteered as a raptor rehabilitator when I was in college. So, it is no surprise that I absolutely love this book! Stay tuned below for a chance to enter to win a copy of this book from the publisher!

Spotlight on Maria:

What was the spark that inspired you to write about a coyote?

I had a close encounter with a coywolf (also known as an eastern coyote) when I lived in Massachusetts in January 2007, and the seed of a story was born. It was such a majestic and beautiful creature. I became obsessed with learning more about them. At the time, I didn’t even know I had seen a coywolf until I had begun my research.

You do a lovely job – showing the natural balance of predator-prey relationships – how hard it can be for a predator to capture food, and how necessary it is in order for it to feed its young and survive. What were the challenges you faced in telling the story of a coyote hunting? What were some of the highlights of researching/writing this book?

I’d have to say the biggest challenge was trying to find balance between telling the story of a predator to young readers while remaining authentic about the coyote’s ferocity. By making the main character a mother coyote, hunting for her pups, kids can see that she’s hunting to feed her family, so her ferocity has meaning. It’s all part of maintaining balance in an ecosystem.

I loved doing hands-on research, walking in the woods with purpose, searching for signs of the elusive coyote—for scat, bedding sites, kill sites (I once found a bunch of turkey feathers, hence the turkey in the story).

The highlight was interviewing Dr. Jon Way, a noted eastern coyote/coywolf researcher, for what initially began as an article and evolved into a book. I read his book, Suburban Howls, and his scientific papers, and first learned about eastern coyotes/coywolves. I also visited the Stone Zoo where the orphaned coywolves that he rescued then lived. This is a photo of one of them named Lupe, who looked very much like the coywolf of my encounter.

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Do you have a favorite animal? What is it and why?

I LOVE dogs. They’re so affectionate and expressive and full of unconditional love. My dog, Becca, is the best writing companion:-)

Maria Gianferrari was inspired to write Coyote Moon after her first coywolf sighting on a moonlit night in her own Massachusetts backyard. Maria now lives in Northern Virginia with her scientist husband, artist daughter, and rescue dog, Becca. This is her first book for Roaring Brook Press. Visit her at mariagianferrari.com, on Facebook or Instagram.

Roaring Brook has generously offered to send a copy to a lucky winner. To win a copy of Coyote Moon for yourself, a child, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, July 23rd by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, July 26th (be sure to include your email address).

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!

EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations to Katz who won a copy of COYOTE MOON! I’ve sent you an email – please respond with your mailing address. Thank you to everyone for stopping by and entering! Stay tuned for more spotlights, reading buzz, and giveaways!

 

 

Welcome to the Spotlight Eric Luper and The Mysterious Moonstone

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Hooray and happy book birthday to author Eric Luper! This fabulous book is the first in the Key Hunters chapter book series. A secret library? Mysterious keys? I’m there! Stay tuned below to win a copy!

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Key Hunters: The Mysterious Moonstone by Eric Luper (Scholastic/April 2016)

When their beloved school librarian disappears, Evan and Cleo are stuck with a new mean librarian, Ms. Crowley. Evan and Cleo discover a secret library hidden under their school library and follow clues left by their previous librarian- and end up inside a book! Evan and Cleo must solve the mystery and find a key in order to return to their world. Will they make it out of the book? And what other mysteries are locked in the secret library? A fun adventure that had me trying to solve the mystery along with Evan and Cleo. I’m excited to read the rest of the series!

Spotlight on Eric Luper:

You’ve written several novels for older readers prior to this. How did this chapter book series come about? It sounds like such fun to write, with each book taking readers into a different genre.

I had been working on a middle-grade adventure that took place in the New York Public Library and had to do with real life puzzles, almost like National Treasure but in a library. I spent a lot of time learning about libraries and traveling to various libraries for ideas (NYPL, Chicago, Morgan Library, Library of Congress). I was having trouble envisioning how the story would come together until my editor from Scholastic, Jenne Abramowitz, mentioned an idea about a library with magical books that could only be opened with special keys. All it took was thinking about my idea for slightly younger readers with a magical twist and KEY HUNTERS was born!

Evan and Cleo are fun to follow – Evan with his jokes and knowledge and Cleo with her bravery and gumption. How did you develop these two characters? What are the challenges and joys to writing a book about their adventures?

I needed Evan and Cleo to sort of be opposites of one another. That way, there would be lots of opportunity for fun conflict between the two. They have very different ways of approaching problems, and neither is afraid of voicing their opinions. As I moved from book to book, I learned more about the characters in the same way I hope my readers do. And sometimes one or the other surprises me with a thought or action that makes me step back and ask why they did that! It’s part of what makes writing this series exciting for me.

As far as what challenges I’ve faced, I worried about writing a series. Most series have very similar plots from book to book and, quite frankly, that would bore me a little. When I get bored, I grow disinterested and interest is what motivates me as a writer. Since each book of KEY HUNTERS takes place in a different genre of fiction, every one becomes new and exciting for me and that has kept the writing coming fast and fresh.

I love the idea of having to find a key in order for Evan and Cleo to make it home. Do keys have any special significance for you?

Keys are fascinating to me. When I was little, I thought the more keys you had on your keyring the more important you were. Keys open up possibilities in the same way books do, so the two go hand in hand in my mind. The idea that a key would open a book that the characters would be drawn into just seemed to gel perfectly. And the idea that the worlds inside these books are as real as their own world felt exciting too.

Eric Luper grew up in New Jersey and attended Rutgers University. He writes fiction for young people and is proud to have moved from starving artist to not-so-starving artist. Eric loves excitement and is always looking for his next adventure. He’s fibbed his way into a tour of the ultra-secret Pez headquarters, rebuilt a castle in France, explored the creepy tunnels under Paris and Istanbul, escaped hungry crocodiles in Costa Rica, and rafted down the Colorado River. When he’s catching his breath, Eric lives in New York where he splits his time between Albany and Lake George.

For more about Eric and his books, check out his web site!

To win a copy of The Mysterious Moonstone for yourself, a child, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, April 30th by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, May 3rd (be sure to include your email address).

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!

 

 

Welcome to the Spotlight Vivian Vande Velde and 23 Minutes

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I have long been a fan of Vivian Vande Velde. And doesn’t she have the coolest name ever? She has written a number of books for readers of all ages. Some of my favorites of hers include, Never Trust a Dead Man and Heir Apparent. I’m adding her newest YA to that list.

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23 Minutes by Vivian Vande Velde (Boyds Mill Press/2016)

When Zoe steps into the bank, clutching papers she stole from her group home, she’s only hoping to get out of the sudden downpour and catch her breath, but then a nice man is kind to her after she drops her papers. She is unused to being treated with kindness. And then a bank robber comes in and shoots and kills the man when he tries to be a hero. Zoe has an unusual gift – she can turn back time for 23 minutes and try to fix or change events, but she only has 10 tries. And with each playback, with each try, she gets to know the people affected, especially the kind man, better, but each playback results in more bloodshed. Can she save everyone before the 10th playback? Exciting and gripping page-turing story with classic Vivian Vande Velde tension. I could not put this book down and read it in one sitting.

I asked the author: How did you come up with the idea for 23 Minutes and what was the process of writing it like?

I can only talk about 23 Minutes by starting with a previous book.  I’ve played before with the idea of someone faced with a problem where she gets to see the consequences of different actions she might take.  That earlier someone is Giannine and the book is Heir Apparent, and the context is a futuristic virtual reality type of game, with the added factor that due to a mishap Giannine is stuck in the game until she successfully completes it.  A bad decision there means Giannine’s game character gets killed and the game reboots, and Giannine must start over.  People have described the story as “Groundhog Day” meets Jumanji.  By that description, you can tell that Heir Apparent is not meant to be taken too seriously.  Yes, I’ve set it up so that if Giannine doesn’t disconnect from the game in time, her brain will overheat and she could die.  But I suspect that most readers know that isn’t going to happen just as surely as they know Peter Rabbit isn’t going to end up in Farmer McGregor’s pie.

I wanted to revisit that idea of action/seeing consequences/trying a different solution/repeat, but I wanted it to be less humorous and with immediate real life (or real death) results.  I’d been mentally playing with possibilities but was getting nowhere when I came up with the first line:

“The story starts with an act of stunning violence.”

That would be clear and immediate warning to readers that this book was not a comedy and was not for the same readers as my most recent Frogged.

Once I actually started putting words to paper, the writing went fairly quickly, with each decision I made having consequences further along in the story.  Zoe, the 15 year-old main character in 23 Minutes, has the ability to replay the past 23 minutes of her life.  (There are, of course, limits and complications to what she can do.)  But how would you react if someone told you she could “redo” time–and couldn’t prove it because the new version of events would be the only ones you could remember?  So Zoe has been under psychiatric care.  She’s also in foster care, as her family has broken up, partially because of her perceived mental illness.  As a result, she is distrustful of adults, quick to make judgments, and wary of sharing her gift, as doing so has frequently resulted in a worse final situation than the original.  Still, when she witnesses a bank robbery where an innocent bystander gets killed–a young man who has just been kind to her–she decides against her better instincts to get involved.  But the solution is not as simple as calling the police from the safety of outside the bank.  Zoe replays the 23 minutes repeatedly, and can’t help noticing that people are more complicated than she originally judged them, treating her differently depending on how she speaks to them.  And in the meantime she finds herself more and more drawn to Daniel, that handsome young man who–no matter what she does–always seems in the line of fire.

For more about Vivian and her books, check out her web site. And do check out her books, especially 23 Minutes!

And of course, I can’t end a spotlight post without offering a copy of the book! You know the drill:

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, April 9th by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, April 12th.

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Good luck and happy reading! Thanks for stopping by!

Buzz Review: The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

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The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller (illustrated by Frank Morrison)

Chronicle Books/2016

It’s the day before the big parade to honor three-time gold medalist Olympic runner Wilma Rudolph. Alta can’t wait and imagines herself being as fast, as quick as Wilma. But then along come Charmaine with her brand new shoes and challenges Alta, whose shoes are worn out, to a race. Alta wins, but then Charmaine does in a second race, upsetting Alta. The day of the parade, Alta tries to hurry with her banner but it’s awkward and hard to run with it. Charmaine offers to help, and the two girls along with Alta’s sisters take turns relay style until they all make it to the parade in time. The girls sit together as friends rather than competitors to cheer for Wilma Rudolph. In 1960, in segregated Clarksville Tennessee, Wilma agreed to a parade only if it was integrated – and the organizers agreed.

Fabulous story and fabulous illustrations!

The author’s web site

The illustrator’s web site

Welcome to the Spotlight Mylisa Larsen and How To Put Your Parents To Bed!

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I’m super happy to be shining the spotlight on debut picture book author Mylisa Larsen and her book

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How to Put Your Parents to Bed by Mylisa Larsen (Illustrated by Babette Cole) Katherine Tegan Books/2016

A step-by-step guide to help youngsters put their reluctant, too-busy, tired, distracted parents to bed. The story and illustrations made me laugh out loud. What a cute switch-a-roo take on bedtime!

What to do when your parents are looking a bit….exhausted? Put them to bed! But putting parents to bed is no easy task when there’s laundry to do and emails to check. From brushing their teeth to getting them into bed, oh, and they want their bedtime stories, it’s quite a challenge. Readers follow a determined little girl through her evening routine in trying to get her parents to bed, with accompanying hilarious illustrations (love the dog and cat).

Spotlight on Mylisa Larsen:

What was the inspiration for this story?

I think it was just that the distance between those lovely articles in the parenting magazines titled Five Easy Steps to A Stressfree Bedtime and the reality at my house when my kids were young was sometimes so great that all you could do is laugh or cry and laughing seemed slightly more resilient. My kids were always way more inventive in their stall tactics than whatever kids the chick who wrote the article was dealing with. I also remember thinking, “This would work way better if it was not at the end of the day! I am so tired. I am way more tired than these kids are and it’s entirely possible they will win.”

I’m also endlessly amused by The Authoritative Voice—that voice that you used to hear in filmstrips between the beeps and in public service announcements and in some magazines and how to books. It’s not supposed to be funny and I think it’s funny. So one day I was fiddling around with an ironic turn to that kind of voice and I combined it with bedtime and got the first draft of what became How To Put Your Parents to Bed. It was a truly awful book in its first drafts but there was that little spark there that you get in a book that could go somewhere so I took it through revisions.

For more about Mylisa and her book, check out her web site! Read an interview with her editor, Jill Davis. To join in on the celebratory book launch, cruise on over to Pajama Party, But I Don’t Want to Go to Bed…, The Bedtime Zone, and A Field Guide to Sleepy People!

Best of all, you can win a copy AND a pair of PJs by tweeting or sharing on FB about this book with the hashtag #PutParents2Bed! Contest runs till April 1st! Official rules.

Happy Reading!

Welcome to the Spotlight Author Sundee T. Frazier!

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I’m very excited to welcome author Sundee T. Frazier and her awesome new chapter book:

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Cleo Edison Oliver, Playground Millionaire (Scholastic Arthur A. Levine/2016)

Cleopatra Edison Oliver wants to be a major businesswoman like her idol Fortune A. Davis. When Cleo’s fifth grade teacher assigns her class to come up with Passion Projects, Cleo comes up with a brilliant idea for pulling loose teeth. Unfortunately, despite Cleo’s planning, both her business and her friendship with her best friend end up in jeopardy. Not only that, but her nemesis teases her about being adopted and Cleo’s reaction gets her in more trouble! This story will make readers laugh out loud, get teary, and cheer as Cleo figures her way out of her messes. I can’t wait to read more stories starring the brilliant Cleo!

Stayed tuned below for a chance to win a copy of this book!

Spotlight on Sundee:

What was the spark behind Cleo and her story, and what was your publishing journey for PLAYGROUND MILLIONAIRE?

Cleo is a good example of the various influences that generate story. The impetus for the novel was my agent who mentioned to me that she was noticing a big need (and demand) for chapter book series that featured main characters from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

I took on the challenge. I wanted Cleo to be a bright, energetic, confident African-American girl because this is part of my own heritage, and I have many aunts, cousins, and friends who are all Cleos in their own way. I have one young friend, in particular, who is very much this type, and it was her creativity and passion for selling that inspired the idea of a character who dreams of building a business empire.

Regarding her name, I knew the spirit of Cleopatra captured the essence of the character I wanted to create. I could imagine a young pregnant woman struggling with the decision to place her baby for adoption giving this name to her daughter to instill pride and confidence. I played around with middle and last names for Cleo and came up with Edison Oliver because I thought it would be fun to give her the initials C.E.O. Later I realized that Edison embodies Cleo’s drive toward business and innovation (Thomas Edison was quite the driven businessman as well as inventor from what I understand), and Oliver conjures the Dickens’ book, Oliver Twist, about an orphaned boy.

Cleo is not an orphan. However, she is an adopted kid, and while that fact doesn’t define her identity, it is a significant shaping force, just as race has been for me. The thing I love about Cleo is how she is a shaping force. She loves the art of persuasion and convincing people to buy whatever she’s selling, whether a product, a service, or just a great idea.

We “sold” Arthur A. Levine on Cleo after three-plus years of sharing the manuscript back and forth with this veteran (and venerated) editor. I couldn’t be more pleased to have Cleo coming out with his imprint at Scholastic.

What was the best part of writing this story? Any particular challenges?

Part of my calling as a writer, I’ve discovered, is to portray families that don’t “look” like they belong with one another. To show love that knows no boundaries, particularly along the lines that our society draws and defends so fiercely. In Cleo Edison Oliver, I continue my tradition of depicting interracial families. This family happens to be so by adoption—a beautiful and yet undeniably painful way that some parents and children come together. So this was probably the best part of writing the story—knowing that I’m continuing to provide portrayals of families that cross racial boundaries and contributing to the need for more adoptive families in stories for kids.

I also really enjoyed Cleo’s personality and seeing what she was going to do next. One of the most fun scenes to write was the one where she discovers the power of her Extractor Extraordinaire™ after recruiting her brother to be her trial customer for her tooth-pulling service.

The biggest challenge was sticking with it over several years, continuing to believe that it was an important story in spite of taking a while to get to publication. Now the challenge is having confidence that it will find its way to the kids who need it and will love it.

Cleo is an enterprising 5th grader with confidence and great ideas for creating businesses. She’s adopted and has a supportive and loving family. I instantly fell in love with her! How were you like or unlike Cleo when you were in fifth grade?

Although I went through a phase, like most kids, where I made little crafty things and hoped somehow to get people to buy them, I was never the Playground Millionaire type myself.

I’m not very business-savvy. I’m not an innate income-generator (apologies to my musician husband). I was always a dreamer, but in the realms of imagination, not in the real world! Honestly, I didn’t think I had much in common with Cleo and saw myself more clearly in the character of her supportive best friend, Caylee. However, as I struggled to find Cleo’s story and bring it to completion, I realized that while I didn’t necessarily identify with many of her character traits, on a deeper level, I understood her internal drives and longings: the desire to know where you come from, with whom you belong, and who you are. Identity questions and issues. Cleo also helped me admit to my pushy streak, and I suppose we share some over-achiever tendencies.

I hope the various forces that were at work to bring Cleo Edison Oliver into the world will direct her into the hands of all kinds of kids—future business moguls, entrepreneurs, adopted or not, black, white, and other. Ultimately, all kids are dreamers, and I hope that Cleo inspires them to persist in their dreams!

About Sundee:

Sundee T. Frazier is a Coretta Scott King Award winner for New Talent for Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It, which also earned her an appearance on the TODAY Show with Al Roker’s Book Club for Kids. Her heartfelt, entertaining stories address subjects close to her heart: ethnic identity, growing up in interracial families, and multi-generational dynamics. Sundee’s work has been nominated for twelve state children’s choice awards, recognized by Oprah’s Book Club, Kirkus Reviews (Best Children’s Books of the Year), Bank Street College of Education, and the Children’s Book Council (among others). She lives in the Seattle area with her husband and two daughters, and you can read more about her work at www.sundeefrazier.com.

For more about Sundee, you can also friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Scholastic has generously offered to send a copy of this wonderful book to a lucky reader of this blog. Just follow the instructions (you know the drill by now) and you can win a copy for yourself or a child or a school/library!

1. Comment on this post by Saturday, January 30th by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and announced here on Tuesday, February 2nd.

2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.

Good luck and happy reading! Thanks for stopping by!