8 Qs for author Carol Kim to celebrate a (belated) Happy Book Bday + Hangeul day = KING SEJONG INVENTS AN ALPHABET

WE have a DOUBLE celebration on the blog today:

Happy Book Birthday to Carol Kim’s debut nonfiction picture book,

KING SEJONG INVENTS AN ALPHABET

KING SEJONG INVENTS AN ALPHABET, Written by Carol Kim, Illus. by Cindy Kang / Albert Whitman

“An artful telling of the birth of an alphabet.”―Kirkus Reviews

AND–how cool is it that Oct. 9th was Hangeul Day, the celebration of the Korean Alphabet!

Around here, we celebrate with questions:

1.     When and how did you first learn about King Sejong? 

Carol Kim: Both my parents moved to the U.S. in the 1950s (separately, they did not know each other in Korea). My mother had made return trips to visit her family, but my father never did. Not once in almost 60 years! So after my mother died, he decided to take my family and my oldest brother’s family on a trip to Korea in 2013. 

 Photo cred: Carol Kim.
This photo from Carol’s 2013 trip to South Korea was taken in Busan.
In the photo are her dad, her brother’s family, and her family.

Carol Kim: While preparing for our trip, my father mentioned that he only had a 3rd grade proficiency level in reading and writing in Korean. I was very surprised by this–and that’s when he explained the history of Hangeul to me. One of the fascinating parts of Hangeul is that although King Sejong invented it in 1443, it did not become the official alphabet of Korea until 1946! By this point, my father was a young adult, and had lived his entire life under the Japanese occupation. So he did not go to school reading or writing in Korean.

I was quite dumbfounded that I had never heard the story behind Hangeul before. It was so clear to me that it needed to be shared with the world–and that it would make a great children’s book!

KING SEJONG INVENTS AN ALPHABET, Written by Carol Kim, Interior art by Cindy Kang / Albert Whitman

2.     What discoveries did you make while researching/writing this amazing story?

Carol Kim: There were so many interesting facts and stories that I uncovered while learning about King Sejong and how he invented Hangeul. He was such an extraordinary figure, both as a leader and for his many contributions to the world. He made improvements in the areas of music, agriculture, medicine, legal matters, printing, astronomy–the list is remarkable! 

Forward-thinking and Compassionate Leader

I also learned what a forward-thinking and compassionate leader King Sejong was. He created Hangeul to make it possible for anyone to learn to read and write. But there are also stories of how he ordered food to be distributed during times of drought, ordered decrees that treated people more fairly and humanely, and how he was always trying to improve the lives of his people.

3.     What surprises did your illustrator, Cindy Kang, bring to your story?

Carol Kim: I am so grateful that Albert Whitman found Cindy Kang, and that she agreed to illustrate this book! Cindy is from Korea and it was so comforting to me knowing she had both an understanding of Korean culture and access to materials to illustrate the story accurately. She was so accurate in fact, that she included minor details I knew nothing about! For example, in the illustration showing the coronation of King Sejong, Cindy had him holding an object in his hand–like a small staff. My editor wrote to me and asked me to verify its accuracy–but I had no clue what it was! I had to dig pretty deep to confirm that it was something King Sejong would have held during the ceremony, but eventually I was able to do so. I was pretty impressed that Cindy had known to include it! 

KING SEJONG INVENTS AN ALPHABET, Written by Carol Kim, Interior at by Cindy Kang / Albert Whitman

4.     Are there any qualities in King Sejong that you see in yourself—or you wish you had?

Carol Kim: One of King Sejong’s most notable traits was his compassionate outlook toward all of his subjects. He was the most powerful person in his kingdom, and yet he so often was thinking of the needs of others. I think we could all benefit from trying to be more like him in this way!

But I also loved how King Sejong did not concern himself with asserting his power over trivial matters. There’s a story I love that illustrates this so well. A group of palace staff had gone boar hunting, and one of them was riding the king’s horse. After shooting a wild boar full of arrows, the animal charged the men, and ended up killing King Sejong’s horse. 

The king’s men went to King Sejong and informed him of what had happened. They reported that the staff had been neglectful, and should be punished. 

King Sejong’s response was one of common sense. “It happened quite unexpectedly. How could they have known that a large boar would run into this particular horse? Do not speak of this again.” 

I just love that!

Carol Kim, author of KING SEJONG INVENTS AN ALPHABET, Illus. by Cindy Kang / Albert Whitman

5.     What’s on your desk? Your TO DO list? Your reading table? Your street? Your mind? 

Carol Kim: Right now I am trying my best to get the word out about KING SEJONG INVENTS AN ALPHABET. I’ve been a guest on several blogs, I did a Zoom interview for the School Library Journal’s Day of Dialog event, and some events on Instagram. I feel there is so much more I could be doing, but I am quite overwhelmed! 

I have also been busy finishing up a few manuscripts I wrote for the educational market. They were all such great projects, and I learned a lot! I wrote about environmental issues, natural disasters, unsolved mysteries, space, and technology. I feel like I’m back in school (and loving it, by the way!). 

Next I hope to turn my attention to my own unfinished manuscripts. They have been quite neglected for several months–and it is clearly their turn to get my attention!

Book Love

6.     What (or who) inspired you to begin writing for children?

Carol Kim: I am like so many other children’s authors in that I loved books as a child, and throughout my life. I used to write stories starting from when I was barely old enough to write! But the one book that stands out in my mind is Watership Down by Richard Adams. There was something about the characters–a group of rabbits–that really inspired me. 

That feeling of being inspired, or awed, or having my world expanded was what I loved about reading. And I wanted to be able to give that to kids as well–taking something wonderful that I had gained and then passing it on. It took me a long time to find the courage to actually try to write stories, but I finally did it–and it has been the most amazing experience of my life.

KING SEJONG INVENTS AN ALPHABET, Written by Carol Kim, Interior at by Cindy Kang / Albert Whitman

Tips for Author Presentations–from an introvert:

7.     As a self-proclaimed introvert, do you have any tips for like-minded illustrators or authors—on putting yourself out there–during presentations or videos—or even on social media? 

Carol Kim: Boy, do I have tips! I am one of those people who would practically start hyperventilating before having to speak before an audience–or even a small group of people! Today I am comfortable giving talks, being active on social media, and even posting videos on TikTok (that last bit still feels completely unreal).

My first suggestion is to start small. I personally find online presentations less intimidating than ones in real life. If that’s true, start there. Even just attending online events, and turning on your camera is a step forward. Next, try to ask questions–push yourself to participate. When live events are possible, then attend them. And again, be an active participant. Talk to people, introduce yourself, ask questions.

Also, try to start with a setting where you feel you are among friends. My first events were with my local chapter of SCBWI. Even knowing one or two friends were in the audience helped me. 

Finally, keep pushing yourself to do a little more. Post a video on Instagram or TikTok. They are super short, and Instagram stories aren’t even permanent! You do have to get out of your comfort zone–so just take it a step at a time. But I guarantee that the more you do it, the more comfortable you will become. 

8.     What do you hope readers will take away from this book? 

Carol Kim: Since this is a book for kids, I hope they take a moment to realize what a gift it is to be able to have access to books and reading. It is something we take for granted (which is also great in many ways). But just imagining, even briefly, a world where reading was not available to you or your family, can remind us all to appreciate how wonderful it is that books can be a big part of our lives.

Attention Children’s Authors–or those who would like to be:

Bonus!

GUESS WHAT???? In addition to writing books, Carol Kim LOVES to help others who are interested in exploring more about being a children’s book author. Check out her blog, MakeaLivinginKidlit.com –full of information and tips about becoming a children’s author as well as trying to make a career out of this wonderful work we do.

There are posts for both the aspiring author as well as those navigating how to promote and market their books. (And check out her wonderful tips on TikTok too!!!!)

Thank you, Carol, for joining us on the blog today.

To learn more about Carol Kim and her books, check out her website: CarolKimBooks.com

Social media:

Twitter: CKimWrite4Kids

Instagram: CKimWrite4Kids

TikTok: CKimWrite4Kids

Facebook: CarolKim.Writer

Email:

CKim@CKimWrite.com

And here’s a fun interview Carol did on Sandra Nickel’s What Was On…

6 Qs with HELLO, TREE creators Ana Crespo and Dow Phumiruk

Today on the blog, we get to celebrate the recent release of HELLO, TREE, a beautiful picture book about hope and renewal, written by Ana Crespo, and Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk (Little Brown Books for Young Readers).

Welcome Ana and Dow!

Ana & Dow: Thank you so much for inviting us to share about HELLO, TREE!

Dow Phumiruk (L) and Anna Crespo (R) at their fabulous Bookbar Denver launch party for HELLO, TREE (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

“This quietly powerful tale of ecological awareness will prompt reflection about readers’ own roles in coexisting with and protecting nature. The simple, evocative text captures the placid, ever faithful voice of the tree and pairs well with the detailed illustrations….Both an appreciation of nature and an ultimately hopeful reminder about our symbiotic relationship with it.” —KIRKUS

Ana talks about HELLO, TREE’s inception story here: https://vimeo.com/567135915

I LOVE this fun fact from Ana:

This book would not exist were it not for recent immigrants.”

Ana Crespo immigrated to the USA, from Brazil, as an adult. Dow Phumiruk immigrated from Thailand as a child. Their editor, Alvina Ling, is also the daughter of immigrants.
Ana Crespo, Dow Phumiruk, and Alvina Ling

Questions, Questions, Questions!

Q 1.     What was one of the most surprising discoveries you made in creating this book?

Ana Crespo: The most surprising discovery happened even before the Black Forest Fire (the inspiration for this book), when I attended a Ranger Talk at the Rocky Mountain National Park and learned about the role fire plays in a forest’s life cycle and how a fire changes a forest but doesn’t kill it.

After the Black Forest Fire happened and I started researching for this book, what surprised me the most were the details—how certain beetles are attracted by the heat, moving to fire affected areas to mate and lay their eggs, and how woodpeckers will follow the beetles, and how bluebirds will later make their nests in the holes the woodpeckers made, and how everything is connected. Essentially, I was surprised by nature’s incredible resilience.

Dow Phumiruk: There were many discoveries. I didn’t immediately realize that I would end up illustrating not just the life cycle of the forest, but also that of the girl who grew up and left like the bluebirds. Ana’s text really touched my heart! Also, because Ana’s story involves a tree as a main character, I had to find a way to help readers identify it – out of all the trees in the forest. So, I finally decided to have the girl character play dress up with the tree early on and leave behind a ribbon on one tree branch afterwards. Remnants of this ribbon remain on the tree throughout the book.

HELLO, TREE interior art by Dow Phumiruk, text by Ana Crespo (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Q 2.     What’s on your desk? Your TO DO list? Your reading table? Your street? Your mind?

Ana Crespo: There’s a lot on my desk right now; in fact, you can hardly see the desk. And since I became an agent, my to-do list has been overflowing too. Still, I try to find time to read some non-work-related books. Right now, I am reading Ann Cleeves’s Cold Earth, the seventh book in the Shetland series. My mind is on everything that is currently on my to-do list.

HUGSBY by Dow Phumiruk (Viking Books for Young Readers)

Dow Phumiruk: My desk is quite a mess at the moment, too! There are pens, pencils, pads of paper with my doodles, books, printed dummies with notes for revision on them, and more surrounding my basic tools for digital illustration. I can’t seem to keep it neat lately!

My TO DO list for art includes finishing up final art for A LIFE OF SERVICE: THE STORY OF TAMMY DUCKWORTH, by Newberry Honor winner Christina Soontornvat, for Candlewick, and starting another dummy for my latest contracted project (not yet announced). Other TO DO items are preparing for two book-related events, attending two in-person, smaller scale weddings, and getting ready for Halloween (Should I make a life-sized Hugsby costume, a character from one of my books?). My street is pretty quiet. Like Ana, my mind is full of my TO DO list!

Teamwork

Q 3.     What does it mean to you—in the #kidlit world, or personally–to have teamed up together on this project? *And are you cooking up more collaborations?

Ana Crespo: I love that this is an “all-Colorado” book, inspired by an event that happened in Colorado and written and illustrated by Colorado residents. I saw Dow’s work for the first time in 2015, during a local writers and illustrators conference, and I fell in love with her art. So, since then, I dreamed of collaborating with Dow one day. Working with her on Hello, Tree is a dream come true. I would love to share another book with Dow, but there’s nothing on the horizon right now. 

Dow Phumiruk: Thank you so much, Ana. I feel like the lucky one! It is such an honor for me when I am specifically chosen by the author for projects. I would love to work with Ana again! Glad to put that statement out in the world for all to read!

Book Launch Tips

Q 4.     Your book launch at The Bookbar Denver was terrific! Not only was it 1 part virtual, and 2 parts in-person (both indoors—thanks to the rain, and outdoors), you had original songs and group participation. Any tips for those with upcoming book releases?

Ana Crespo: I will leave this question for Dow to answer, but I will share that it helps if the person you are collaborating with is extra-talented. The songs she wrote are amazing! And, yes, we were so happy we had audience participation. Colorado kids are, unfortunately, very aware of forest fires.  So, they all had experienced it in a way or another. 

Audience Participation

Dow Phumiruk: Thank you so much, Erin and Ana. However you choose to launch your book, making sure you include audience participation is a must. Young children want to move, dance, sing, and answer questions. I love writing interactive, short kid songs just for them. Ana had a wonderful idea of bringing coasters made of slices of tree trunk to share. These were wonderful tactile elements for the children to enjoy! It’s another way for kids to join in – and they even learn while they are at it!

Q 5.     Tells us about your upcoming projects.

Lia & Luís: Who Has More? by Ana Crespo, Illus. Giovana Medeiros (Charlesbridge)

Ana Crespo: I have two upcoming projects, although just one has been announced. Next year, Lia & Luís: Puzzled! will launch. It’s a sequel to Lia & Luís: Who Has More? Both books are part of the Charlesbridge Storytelling Math series, which is a wonderful and important project mixing math, diversity, and the power of storytelling. There’s also a bilingual Spanish/English edition of Lia & Luís: Who Has More? coming out in April! I’ll share the other project when it is announced.

HER NAME WAS MARY KATHARINE by Ella Schwartz, Illus. Dow Phumiruk (Christy Ottaviano Books)

Dow Phumiruk: That’s great news, Ana! I have a book called HER NAME WAS MARY KATHARINE by Ella Schwartz that will be out in January 2021. It’s from Christy Ottaviano Books and is about the only woman whose name appears on the Declaration of Independence – at the bottom, as the printer of the document for circulation. How did history leave her out? We want everyone to read about her! Then I am finishing up the book about Tammy Duckworth as mentioned above. I also am working on LAST FLIGHT, by Kristen Giang, for Levine Querido. I am so very excited for that one, as Kristen’s story recounting her escape from Vietnam before Saigon fell to communist rule is harrowing, dramatic, and so beautifully written. And I am honored to work with Arthur Levine at his young imprint. My other work-in-progress is called BETTER TOGETHER, by Latin Emmy Award winning singer/songwriter Ben Gundersheimer. This one is for Nancy Paulsen Books, and I’ve been wanting to work with her and her team for a long while now. This book about joining together to make the world a better place is a delightful project!

PS–> Congratulations to Dow, who will have one of her illustrations from HELLO, TREE featured in the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show, which begins Oct. 27th.

Save the date!

Colorado friends: Don’t miss Ana Crespo and Dow Phumiruk and HELLO, TREE at The Wandering Jellyfish, on Saturday, October 16th, at 11:00am, in Niwot, CO, for another in-person event. They will read, sing, and sign books. What fun!

There is also another very cool event coming up for this dynamic duo, though they can’t talk about it yet. More soon!

Dia das Crianças no Brasil!

Q 6.     One last question, for Ana: Since Oct. 12th is Children’s Day in Brazil, what advice would you give to children who would like to write books someday?

Ana Crespo: Read! I think reading is essential for those who want to become a writer. And, of course, write! Write anything—keep a diary, write short stories, write long stories, write letters, blogs… Have fun writing!

Huge thanks to Ana & Dow

for answering our questions today on the blog.

To learn more about their books, you can find them here:

anacrespobooks.com ArtByDow.blogspot.com

And follow them on:

Instagram: AnaCrespoBooks DowPhumiruk

Twitter: @AnaCrespoBooks @DowPhumiruk

Next upon the blog: Carol Kim celebrates the launch of her new book, KING SEYONG INVENTS AN ALPHABET.

5 Wonderful Books for Fire Season

Sadly, Fire Season is a thing these days, and not just in California, where forest fires have names, just like hurricanes. You might live in an area turned upside down (possibly literally) by hurricane Henri or Ida, and my heart goes out to everyone affected. Where I live, we have #Caldor, #Dixie, and #Tamarack fires causing evacuations for thousands upon thousands, acres of destruction, displaced and injured wildlife, and smoke so thick you’d think the fog rolled in. (I wish!) Unfortunately, wildfires are raging around the world.

I highly recommend these 4 picture books + a middle grade to help start conversations about such way-too-relevant firestorm experiences, with kids of all ages, and possibly add a new perspective, or much needed healing and hope.

What if…?

THE ONE THING YOU’D SAVE by Linda Sue Park, Illus. Robert Sae-Heng, Clarion.

I’ve been thinking about this middle grade novel in verse by Newbery Medal recipient Linda Sue Park a lot lately–especially while packing our car in case we received evacuation orders.

THE ONE THING YOU’D SAVE can be read any time of year, truly, and the narrative poems can be read separately if you have younger students–but it belongs in this post because, sometimes we don’t realize the things we truly treasure until they are threatened or gone. Not only do the poems piece together in a compelling story, the premise and poems themselves make fabulous writing prompts and discussion starters.

FOUR Starred Reviews…including:

“The class’s camaraderie and caring spirit comes through clearly, poised to inspire thoughtful classroom discussion.” Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

New Perspectives–and Hope

WE WILL LIVE IN THIS FOREST AGAIN by Gianna Marino, Neal Porter Books

Gianna Marino’s WE WILL LIVE IN THIS FOREST AGAIN is told from the perspective of a deer–as well as a coyote, bear, crow, and mountain lion– as they realize the danger and race to outrun a wildfire. “Hot cinders spun back and forth, across the hills and through the canyons…fire snapped at our fur and feathers and hooves and paws….”

WE WILL LIVE IN THIS FOREST AGAIN by Gianna Marino, Neal Porter Books

FOUR starred reviews, including…

“The poetic text is powerful and effective at building tension and then providing hope. The color palette perfectly conjures the before, during, and after of the fire while Marino’s lyrical text from the deer’s view point gives it context. It is a potent combination.” —School Library Journal, Starred Review

 “Inspired by her own experiences in the 2017 fires in California, Marino tells this story in the nostalgic but also hopeful voice of one of the forest-dwellers . . . The yellows and greens of the forest are overtaken by fiery reds and oranges, which turn to sooty gray, then warm brown, with, finally, shoots of green. Reassurance about the resilience of the natural world.” Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

BIG BEAR WAS NOT THE SAME by Joanna Rowland, Illus. John Ledda, Beaming Books.

Long after the fire has been contained (And we hope that is SOON, dear friends.), young readers–victims and evacuees, or even those who watched the firestorm reported on the news– will need to talk about it. BIG BEAR WAS NOT THE SAME, which focuses on two bears after the fire, is about healing and dealing with the trauma they have experienced.

An excellent tool for counselors, mental health professionals, and social workers–as well as teachers and parents.

BIG BEAR WAS NOT THE SAME by Joanna Rowland, Illus. John Ledda Beaming Books

“Rowland uses a pair of bear best friends, Big Bear, who is a grizzly, and Little Bear, who is a black bear, to illustrate trauma and trauma responses, describing what happens after Big Bear survives a forest fire. Not quite understanding why his big, brave friend is acting so differently, Little Bear does his best to be supportive and help Big Bear cope…An accessible, age-appropriate primer that sheds light on trauma and PTSD.” —Publishers Weekly

HELLO, TREE by Ana Crespo, Illus. Dow Phumiruk, Little Brown Books for Young Readers

HELLO, TREE, from Ana Crespo and Dow Phumiruk, explores the perspective of a tree–who must stay and watch, as humans and wildlife flee the burning forest. (Spoiler alert) The tree survives, only to be surrounded by devastating destruction, but readers will find hope as we learn about the process of regrowth. An excellent prompt for writing or discussions about preservation of the environment.

“Both an appreciation of nature and an ultimately hopeful reminder about our symbiotic relationship with it.” —KIRKUS

I AM SMOKE by Henry Herz, Illus. Mercè López,  Tilbury House Publishers

This unique, lyrical story from Henry Herz and Mercè López is told from the perspective of the smoke.

Smoke dissipates quickly, but this poetic text will linger.–Starred KIRKUS

I love how Smoke, the narrator, speaks in mesmerizing riddles:

“I lack a mouth, but I can speak.

I lack hands, but I can push out unwanted guests.

I’m gentler than a feather, but I can cause harm.”

I AM SMOKE by Henry Herz, Illus. Mercè López,  Tilbury House Publishers

“Herz presents a provocative and unique look at the lifecycle and benefits of smoke throughout the millennia. Lopez’s multimedia artwork further illuminates the ethereal nature of smoke as it drifts and dances across the page.”
– John Rocco, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Honor book BLACKOUT

Learn more about I AM SMOKE from this interview with author Henry Herz.

May these wonderful books bring you hope and healing –and many conversations.

Happy Reading from me and this morning’s hungry visitor.
(I guess the BUCK stops here! )

Happy (almost) Book Birthday to Henry Herz’ I AM SMOKE + 10 Qs

This beautiful nonfiction picture book,

Henry Herz’ I AM SMOKE

(Illus. Mercè López /  Tilbury House Publishers)

launches on Sept. 14th!

“Herz presents a provocative and unique look at the lifecycle and benefits of smoke throughout the millennia. Lopez’s multimedia artwork further illuminates the ethereal nature of smoke as it drifts and dances across the page.”
– John Rocco, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Honor book BLACKOUT

“Lustrous illustrations and meditative text reflect on the role of smoke in nature and civilization…Using sparse but potent text, author Herz presents smoke as a “swirling, roiling mist” vital to nature and to humans; it’s as important in its mundanity as it soothes bees or flavors food as it is in the sacred, when smoke “participates in prayer” through incense… Smoke dissipates quickly, but this poetic text will linger.

STARRED REVIEW

KIRKUS

We’re excited to celebrate Herz’ unique, lyrical nonfiction picture book today.

And we have Questions!

Q 1. What is your absolute favorite spread of I AM SMOKE ?

Henry Herz: The cover (above), which is also the final spread of the book. It brings the story full circle, as it is a centuries-later version of the book’s opening spread. It shows that smoke’s “cycle” has been twirling for the millennia since humanity first discovered fire.

Q 2. How did the concept of I AM SMOKE? evolve?

Henry Herz: While there are some picture books with anthropomorphic characters, I’d never seen smoke treated as a character. And who better to explain the various ways in which people have employed smoke than smoke itself? But I needed an overarching structure. I considered the chemistry of smoke. It turns out that wood smoke is primarily carbon dioxide, ash, and water vapor. Water vapor got me thinking about the water cycle—water evaporates from rivers, lakes, and oceans to form clouds. Eventually, the water precipitates as rain or snow. Rinse and repeat.

The Smoke Cycle

Then I considered the carbon dioxide given off by wood smoke. Two oxygen atoms and one carbon atom. Carbon… Inspiration struck like lightning splitting a tree. Plants are the lungs of the Earth. They breathe in carbon dioxide through their stomata. They drink up water through their roots. Sunlight provides energy to split those molecules. The plant forms cellulose from carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, sequestering more and more carbon as they grow. Conversely, burning tree branches releases the stored carbon. Eureka! Smoke has a “cycle” too.

Q 3. They say each book we write is a  tiny bit autobiographical. Is there a character in any of your recent books who is most like you? For example…

a.     I AM SMOKE – Smoke is the only character and I don’t identify with it. That said, I do love smoked salmon.

b.     TWO PIRATES + ONE ROBOT – Come on! Who wouldn’t want to be a space pirate?

c.     GOOD EGG AND BAD APPLE – The zucchini, because he’s a loyal friend to Good Egg, and because he suffers a vegie wedgie when Bad Apple yanks up his plastic wrap. We’ve all been the target of bullying at some point.e.     

d. CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW – If you can’t be a space pirate, I’d say the next best thing is a dinosaur pirate. Arrr!

e. HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS – The crab cracks me up, both because he’s an homage to Jon Klassen’s crab in THIS IS NOT MY HAT, and because he helps deliver justice in the end to the larcenous squid.

Writing Riddles

Q 4. I love how Smoke, the narrator, speaks in mesmerizing riddles: “I lack a mouth, but I can speak. I lack hands, but I can push out unwanted guests. I’m gentler than a feather, but I can cause harm.” If your writing journey thus far could speak in riddles, what would it say about itself?

Henry Herz: Thanks. I think many of my fellow authors will recognize these aspects of the writerly life:

I proofread over and over, but my manuscript still contains typos.

I must be in touch with my emotions to write, but I must develop a thick skin to handle the unavoidable rejection by agents and publishers.

I must develop innovative concepts, but my books must fit into what publishers view as marketable categories.

I am eager to move ideas from my head to paper, but I must be patient while waiting for publisher responses.

Q 6. Were there any surprises that illustrator  Mercè López brought to the book?

Henry Herz: Yes! She devised an innovative approach for creating illustrations. Actual swirling smoke was captured on art paper held over smoky candle flames. Then the dancing smoke textures were enhanced with watercolors and Photoshop. Merce López “let the smoke decide how the idea I had in mind would dance with it, giving freedom to the images.” The resulting illustrations are astounding, and they resonate with the otherworldly text.

Fire smoke, interior art by Mercè López from I AM SMOKE / Henry Herz / Tilbury House Publishers

Q 7. What was the most surprising discovery you made about smoke, as your book went from idea to published book?

Henry Herz: The saying “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” conveys danger. And of course, fire and smoke can be lethal. But I was surprised to find how many beneficial uses smoke has been put to across the world and through the ages.

Smoke has been used to coax seeds to sprout, to drive out pests from homes, to send signals over long distances, to cover foul smells, to calm bees when harvesting honey, to flavor and preserve food, as part of religious ceremonies, and even to heal.

Q 8. What do you hope young readers will take away from I AM SMOKE?

Henry Herz: Aside from the STEM, cultural, and historical facts, that common practices bind humanity across time and space.

Interior art by Mercè López from I AM SMOKE / Henry Herz / Tilbury House Publishers

What’s next, Henry?

Q 9. Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming title, THE MAGIC SPATULA?

Henry Herz: THE MAGIC SPATULA is a contemporary magical realism early chapter book co-written with multiple Emmy-winning TV chef, Sam “The Cooking Guy” Zien. When he learns that his grandparents are moving away, Matt plans to make them a special dessert. There’s only one problem: he’s never baked before. Worse, to get two bullies off his back, he bets that he’ll win the school baking contest. Matt discovers an ancient spatula and recipe box in the attic. But, will those help enough to win the contest, deflect the bullies, and make a delicious dessert for his grandparents? An appendix includes five kid-friendly dessert recipes.

Q 10. What else is on the horizon for you?

Henry Herz: I have a sci-fi/humor middle grade novel on submission and am revising a fantasy middle grade novel. I just joined as an editor the staff of small publisher Running Wild Press, so that should yield some interesting projects. I AM SMOKE launches September 7, 2021. After that, my writerly activities will include:

-Moderating a San Diego Comic-Con panel with actors from Netflix’s Norsemen series.

-Denver Horror Collective’s adult horror anthology, THE JEWISH BOOK OF HORROR, will include my short story, Demon Hunter Vashti.

-Launching in 2022 my contemporary magical realism early chapter book, THE MAGIC SPATULA from Month9 Books with co-author Sam “The Cooking Guy” Zien.

-Launching in 2022 the middle-grade #ownvoices anthology from Albert Whitman & Co., COMING OF AGE, including my sci-fi/humor short story, Bar Mitzvah on Planet Latke.

-Launching in 2022, the young adult horror anthology from Blackstone Publishing, THE HITHERTO SECRET EXPERIMENTS OF MARIE CURIE, including my short story, Cheating Death.

-Highlights for Children has purchased two more of my stories, but I don’t know when those will come out.

Thanks for joining us, Henry!

Don’t miss this in-store event with Henry Herz in conversation with author
Chris Baron at Mysterious Galaxy (info & register HERE) on Nov. 13th.

You can learn more about Henry Herz and his books on his web site

www.henryherz.com and by following him on social media:

Twitter @HenryLHerz

Insta henry_herz

Next up on the blog: My Daddy Can Fly (Forster & Siadat/ RH Studio), illustrated by Jami Gigot.

Happy Book Birthday to CLOVIS KEEPS HIS COOL + 6 Qs for author Katelyn Aronson

You guys–It’s a BULL in a china shop!

Isn’t he wonderful?

We’re so excited to celebrate the release of this wonderful book,

CLOVIS KEEPS HIS COOL, by Katelyn Aronson

( Illus. Eve Farb / Page Street Kids).

Speaking of cool, CLOVIS KEEPS HIS COOL was featured in

this WSJ article!

Wow!

You might remember meeting Katelyn Aronson in a previous interview for her PIGLETTE’S PERFECT SURPRISE picture book (click here). And now, we can welcome CLOVIS to the kidlit family.

Time for some Questions!

Q 1. What inspired this delightful story, CLOVIS KEEPS HIS COOL? 

Katelyn Aronson: Besides the proverbial “bull in the china shop” expression (which was begging me for some backstory), this tale was woven together from disparate odds and ends in my life. For example, the football references are a nod to my maternal grandfather, while the tea references are for my maternal grandmother. Both my grandparents have passed on and including these elements was a way for me to celebrate their memory.

Q 2. Speaking of which, tell us about Grandma D. –who is mentioned in your dedication. Might these words,  “Grace, grace. Nothing broken to replace.” be Granny D.’s words?

Katelyn Aronson: Actually, my Gramma Dee’s sacred words were more, “This too shall pass. Have some chocolate,” whenever I was lamenting life, ha! Delaine Phyllis Hawkinson (1933-2014) was my beloved grandmother who gifted me my very first china teapot. We both appreciated the beauty of finely crafted tea-ware…despite a shared preference for coffee! Just like Clovis’ “Granny Grace,” my gramma was a shining example of grace, strength, and humor (not to mention sass) for me during her life. It pains me to think that she never lived to see my published stories, but I hope that somehow, somewhere, my Gramma Dee is watching, and that she knows that this book is for her, with love. This is my favorite picture of us together. Isn’t she beautiful? Her laughter still echoes in my memory.

(photo credit: Brieanne Aronson)

Q 3. If Clovis were to meet Piglette (PIGLETTE’S PERFECT SURPRISE & the first book, PIGLETTE / Illus. Eva Byrne/ Viking ) what would their conversation be like? Would they be friends?

Katelyn Aronson: Oh yes, they would, and I’m sure they’d throw the best parties together! Clovis would of course handle the table setting and the beverage-pouring…Piglette would provide a plethora of pastries! (One day, when the pandemic is behind us, I sure would love to have a big tea party with readers of Clovis and Piglette! How fun would that be?)

E.D. note: Yes, please! Put me on the guest list, s’il vous plaît!

Q. 4. What surprises did illustrator Eve Farb bring to the book?

Katelyn Aronson: I had the huge honor of cherry-picking Eve Farb to work on this project (thank you to her and to Kristen Nobles for agreeing to that and making it all possible). I had been following Eve’s work for a while, dreaming of some kind of collaboration. My biggest surprise was looking at her first sample illustration (left image above) and thinking, “That’s him! My Clovis! I recognize him!” Eve’s depiction was exactly how I’d imagined him. I still get goosebumps just thinking about it. Later, my request for the final cover (featured image / top of post) was that Clovis look PEEVED. I don’t think anyone could have captured his mood any better, do you?

Q 5. I love that this is literally a “bull-in-a-china-shop” story—but with so many layers. What do you hope young readers will take away after reading it?

Katelyn Aronson: I suppose both of my new releases this year (Piglette’s Perfect Surprise and Clovis) have been about messing up in some way, falling short of perfection. I hope that these stories are a comfort to readers—a reminder that, yes, we all make mistakes. We get overwhelmed. We overreact. But there is still grace to be found, for ourselves and for others.  At times, we may need to learn to forgive our own mistakes before understanding how to extend forgiveness to others. Forgiving ourselves can sometimes be the hardest part!

What’s next?

Q 6. Are there other books in the queue? Can you share anything about them?

Katelyn Aronson: Thank you for asking, I’d love to share! I have a new book (or two) coming out every year from now through 2024.

The next one is POO-DUNIT ? A FOREST FLOOR MYSTERYmy silly, rhyming, STEM tale, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis and releasing from Candlewick in 2022.

In 2023, I have THE STORY OF PB&J illustrated by Sesame Street artist Sarah Rebar and releasing from Penguin Random House. It’s basically the kitchen/condiment version of West Side Story.

Alas…the rest remain secret for the moment! But my very first picture book to star human characters (and mermaids!) will make an appearance in 2024 with Candlewick. It’s so hard to wait patiently!

Wow–> Congrats!

E.D. Note: You had me at “kitchen/condiment version of West Side Story…” Love, Love, LOVE!

Thank you, Katelyn Aronson, for joining us today.

To learn more about Katelyn Aronson and her books, follow her on Twitter: @MademoiselleK8

Instagram: authorkatelyn

and check out her author page.

Next up on the blog: A celebration of Henry Herz’ powerful new picture book, I AM SMOKE.