Author Archives: Debbi Michiko Florence

About Debbi Michiko Florence

Author of children's books. Coming in July 2017, JASMINE TOGUCHI, MOCHI QUEEN and JASMINE TOGUCHI, SUPER SLEUTH (FSG).

Win an ARC of A CRACK IN THE SEA

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I just finished reading the ARC of A CRACK IN THE SEA by Heather Bouwman (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/January 2017). I loved this amazing MG novel so much I want one of you to be able to read it well in advance of the pub date. What’s it about? Hmmm….there are three stories interwoven: a boy with a gift for speaking with the fish is kidnapped from his island home by the Raft King, a slave ship full of sick slaves including the heroic and courageous Venus, and a boy and his make-shift family escape war-torn Vietnam – and a crack in the sea. Oh…and did I mention a Kraken love story? Leave your name in the comments section and I’ll draw one name at random tomorrow morning and send the ARC to a lucky winner. (I’m also posting this on my personal FB page so you’ll have some additional competition.) You must have a U.S. mailing address.

Good luck and happy reading!

EDITED TO ADD: The winner is Kristen W. Nitz! (Names were also drawn from comments made on my personal Facebook page. I normally don’t do that, and in the future will revert back to only choosing names from this blog.)

My Book Birthday!

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Hi! I’m throwing myself a book birthday party to celebrate the release of the early reader chapter book series I wrote for Capstone, and one lucky winner will receive the birthday gift!

There are four books in total: Dorothy & Toto: What’s Your Name?, Dorothy & Toto: The Hunt for the Perfect Present, Dorothy & Toto: The Disappearing Picnic, and Dorothy & Toto: Little Dog Lost. For story summaries, click here. The paperback versions are currently available for pre-order (although some people have said they have received their pre-orders already). If you’d like to buy these books, order them at your favorite indie bookstore, or order online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound.

For more information and to enter to win a set of the hardcover library edition for yourself, a child, or a school or library, click here to enter by commenting on the post of my web site.

Next time, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled Spotlight interviews and giveaways!

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.

EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations to Rachael who is the winner of this drawing! Please contact me at just kid ink at yahoo (no spaces) with your signing instructions and 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