6 Qs with NYT Bestselling #kidlit author Stacia Deutsch = Happy Book Birthday to THE STORY OF JIM HENSON

Happy Book Birthday to Stacia Deutsch’

The Story of Jim Henson:

A Biography Book for New Readers

(The Story Of: A Biography Series for New Readers) / Rockridge Press/ Jan. 12, 2021.

Stacia Deutsch is the NYT Bestselling author of 300+ #Kidlit books—from junior movie tie-ins, Boxcar Children mysteries, LEGO novels, and most recently biographies. Now THAT calls for a celebration—and a few questions:

Q 1. You had FOUR children’s books release in 2020 (including THE STORY OF AMELIA EARHART) and now THE STORY OF JIM HENSON to start 2021—CONGRATULATIONS! What challenges have you had launching your books—or writing them–during this pandemic? Also—when do you sleep? ; )

Stacia Deutsch: Like everyone else, I am in a Covid malaise. I remember back in February, when my college-aged children both returned home, we expected we’d all still be heading back East for my son’s NYU graduation. I was one of those people that decided to use those first locked-down weeks wisely: write more, learn guitar, bake…but then the days of Covid piled up. I set down the guitar and let my big new book ideas fall aside. I had baked good delivered. The best part about the career I have created for myself is that publishers reach out to me with books they need. The LEGO stories I wrote this year, and the two biographies, didn’t depend on me to initiate them. The editors gave me the push and inspiration I needed to turn off the news and quiet my worries. I never imagined a writing career where I would spend so much time in worlds that are provided to me, but I love what I do and can’t imagine it any other way. I think many of us are feeling a creative lull right now, writing is hard enough without a pandemic. It’s about getting up, sitting down, and dredging it out. And yes, I do sleep – more than I should lately. I make up for the time by typing really, really fast.

Q 2. I can just see THE STORY OF JIM HENSON prompting many discussions with young readers about being creative and trying new things. How would young Stacia have related to these themes?

Stacia Deutsch: I loved writing this book. I actually believe that a mind like Jim’s has to be a very special place – there’s a little madness there. So many ideas, dreams, and visions filled his head all the time. I can relate to that…I have a lot of ideas. What I don’t know, and envy, is how he moved those ideas to reality. Some of it is luck, he was in the right place at the right time. Some is determination. And a lot of it is pure talent.

Young Stacia didn’t think she had any of those things. I certainly didn’t believe I was lucky. My determination came in spurts, but without clear focus as to what I wanted to “do with my time.” And talent…I came to writing after another career, so I didn’t know I had it in me until later than a lot of other writers I know.

…the willingness to try something new.

The thing that Jim Henson and I have in common is the willingness to try something new. When I decided I wanted to write a book, I didn’t take any classes. Rather I read books I liked – differently. I counted words on the page and looked at punctuation. I studied how chapters ended and new chapters began. Only after I’d sold my first book (Blast to the Past) did I take writing classes. Jim was like that too. In high school, he decided to try puppetry and read a book on it. Then later, studied the technique. It’s kind of like diving into the deep water and hoping you’ll learn to swim. Probably smarter to take the lessons first, but there’s a lot of value to figuring things out as you go along. I’m still learning. I’m still growing. And I bet, if Jim Henson was alive today, he’d say that about himself too.

Q 3. Which Sesame Street / Muppet character is most like you?

  • Bert
  • Ernie
  • Big Bird
  • Cookie Monster
  • Kermit the Frog
  • Miss Piggy
  • Oscar the Grouch

Stacia Deutsch: I like to think I am Kermit the Frog. He’s bold, clever, adaptable. He’s the leader and the problem solver. He’s also the romantic lead, right? But the truth is, I have a lot of Oscar in me. I sometimes have to stop myself from counting all the reasons something won’t work before getting my head around the idea that it might. I find that I often start sentences with “No, but…” instead of “Yes, and…” Plus, I definitely like to close my lid and retreat into my can all alone.

“None of us is just one character…”

I guess none of us is just one character and that’s what Jim Henson understood. I wish I had a little more of Big Bird’s wonder. I want to find the humor in everything like Ernie. I’d love to be fashionable and confident like Piggy. And I’d really like to eat all the cookies I want without worrying about calories, like Cookie Monster.

None of us is just one thing, and I think about that a lot as I write. The jock isn’t just athletic. The brain is more than a nerd. As I answer this, I am realizing Jim Henson gave us, as writers, an amazing example of how to broaden our characters as we work. And not just that, to broaden ourselves as we try a little harder to embrace our inner Kermit-Cookie-Oscar-ness. I’m going to try for a little more Big Bird in 2021.

Interior for Stacia Deutsch’ THE STORY OF JIM HENSON / Rockridge Press

Q 4. What was one of the most surprising facts or discoveries you made in writing THE STORY OF JIM HENSON? Or THE STORY OF AMELIA EARHART?

Stacia Deutsch: I actually have been thinking a lot about one of the things that Jim Henson did that seems super applicable to today. He saw the TV box as a space with infinite possibilities. Where puppeteers before him used puppet theaters and kept to a traditional show, Henson saw the whole TV as his space. His Muppets could come in from the top, run from the back, or pop in sideways.

Interior for Stacia Deutsch’ THE STORY OF JIM HENSON / Rockridge Press

As we are all stuck in the Zoom box right now, I have watched a lot of Zoom theater. It’s mostly people sitting and talking to the screens. Zoom conferences and teaching is also just staring at faces chatting. I wish we’d all think more like Jim. The zoom box doesn’t have to have limits. There have been some creative things done, like handing things “magically” across frames, or the work of ratemyskype to get us all to think about our space and lighting. Still our boxes should never be limiting. With that said, I don’t know what I want to do with this revelation. But, I’d like to think that stories aren’t stuck in a box either. There are so many interesting things we can do within traditional frames, be them TV, computer, or book jacket. The possibilities are endless and I’d love to explore breaking these boundaries more. I’m inspired by Jim Henson and his imagination all the time.

Q 5. Which part of the writing process is your favorite? Your least favorite?

Stacia Deutsch: My least favorite part of writing is starting. No joke. That blinking cursor on a white page is enough to make me scream and run away. I tend to write first sentences over and over again, before giving up and just dumping my brain onto paper. I love the personal editing process after that, but always wish it could be perfect the first time.

The other part I don’t like much is getting notes. Okay, so that’s not entirely true. After I have someone read my work, I look at all their red ink and big questions and I want to curl up in bed for a month. But then, as I settle down, I remind myself that nothing is perfect the first time, and I dig in. It’s funny, because often, when I finish making changes, I don’t even recognize the original draft in my work. I think, “Did I write that?” or “That’s clever. How did I think of that?” It’s almost like someone else took over my brain and hands.

My favorite, best and most wonderful part of the writing experience is getting emails and letters from kids. I like it when they ask me how I thought of something and I have to admit I don’t know. I love it when they compare me to other writers. I was once told I was the third best writer in the whole world. And I enjoy answering their questions about my dogs. It’s an amazing feeling to put something you created out there in the universe and let momentum take it over.

Q 6. What would you tell your earlier not-yet-published self, the one who thinks she might want to write books someday? Any tips you might share?

Stacia Deutsch: The best advice I can give is get a thick skin and send your writing into the world. I can’t even estimate the number of people I meet who are “writing a book” but never submitted it anywhere. Writing is a hard task and submitting it is even harder. It means putting yourself out there for disappointment, sometimes getting ghosted, waiting for months on end, and giving yourself praise when others don’t. I have 4 full novels, plus other works that have made the rounds and been rejected for one reason or another. Sometimes, I revise and resend. Sometimes, I pretend to myself that I am going to revise and don’t. Sometimes, I just move on. I hate that I have so many books that I believe in that aren’t reaching readers. It’s painful. But it’s also part of the process.

Sometimes, I just move on.

Your first book isn’t your only book, so dig deep and start again. Very few people write a draft book and end up with their own themed amusement park. The rest of us slog away, day by day, or as we hear repeatedly “Bird by Bird.” I tell my children when I am dead and gone, I will leave them 4 unpublished novels (so far) and a hard drive full of other stuff. It’s my hope they’ll keep submitting because somewhere out there is an editor, desperately looking for an exciting mermaid-human girl-parent trap story that hasn’t heard of me…yet.

Oh, one last thought, my husband and I watched the Netflix Dolly Parton Documentary. Did you know she has more than 1000 unpublished songs?! That was so inspiring. I only have 4 complete unpublished novels. I clearly have a lot more work to do. And a lot more submitting in my future…

OOOOH–we can’t wait!

To learn more about Stacia Deutsch and her books, check out her web site: staciadeutsch.com  and follow her on

Twitter: @staciadeutsch 

Insta: staciadeutsch_writes

Up next on the blog: Happy Book Birthday to PETER EASTER FROG!

 

DEAR EARTH… (+ Erin Dealey) from the 5th graders in Room 3A & Portable E !

It’s blog takeover time–hooray! The 5th graders in Room 3A and Portable E saw Mrs. Pete’s class blog takeover  and asked if they could do one too. What fun to zoom and play with words and talk about writing!

Here’s what they had to say: 

Dear Erin Dealey,
We read your new book, DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 (Harper Collins/ Illus. Luisa Uribe) and wrote some reviews:

DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 / Erin Dealey/ Interior art by Luisa Uribe / 2020 Harper Collins.

  • “I liked that it was about kids doing good things for the Earth. I found it interesting that the Earth was thanking them, the Earth won’t send messages but it will still be good for Earth if you do the things the kids in the story did.” –Ryan 
  • “I liked that it was a fun story, but at the same time told you about different ways that you can help the Earth.” –Ellie
  • “I like that the earth is a character.” –Addy
  • “The story made me think about the fact that that is why we are in this world.” –Gissell 

DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 / Erin Dealey/ Interior art by Luisa Uribe / 2020 Harper Collins.

The book made us think about:
  • How many things we can do to help our planet, and how much energy I’m using and wasting. –Jadelyn

DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 / Erin Dealey/ Interior art by Luisa Uribe / 2020 Harper Collins.

  • Earth deserves more love because we take it apart and the animals on the planet suffer because of us and we pollute which is a very bad thing–not only to us but our environment. —Nolan 

DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 / Erin Dealey/ Interior art by Luisa Uribe / 2020 Harper Collins.

  • One day at school at the end of each day, I will go around the whole school picking up trash during the last recess and I will ask the teachers if they want to help. —Nolan
  • You should care about the environment. —Allora
We have some questions for you!
Qs From Miss Wexler’s class: 

1. How long does it take you to make a normal book, if you have been doing it for a while? –Alison

Erin Dealey: It really varies, no matter how long I’ve been doing this. (I’m on my 16th book.) The idea for a story usually comes quickly. Then I play with the story to see where it goes, and then share it with my writing group to get feedback. After that I revise, and then I revise, oh–and then I revise. After that, I send it to my agent, who submits it to editors. Sometimes the editors have revisions or issues which I might fix, even if they reject it. And when I am lucky enough to sign a contract for the story to become a book, you can be sure that editor will have suggestions for revisions, so I will revise again. Then the illustrator gets a full year to complete the illustrations. They say it takes approximately two years from signing the contract for a story to hit the shelves as a published picture book.

2. Have you ever had anyone help you with making a book? –Alison

Erin Dealey: It takes a wonderful team to create each book. My writing group helps by giving me feedback and reading multiple drafts after I revise. I may also send a manuscript to other writer friends for feedback. My agent helps by giving feedback and then submitting it to editors. IF I sign a contract, that editor has a team, including Art director, publicity, marketing. The illustrator makes the world of the book come alive. With DEAR EARTH… we also had a science expert on climate change who made sure my facts were accurate, and Earth’s suggestions as well as the back matter were correctly stated and plausible. Creating a picture book takes team work!

3. What made you finally realize you wanted to be an author? And why did you decide to write children books and not a different type of book? –Jadelyn

Erin Dealey: As a high school Theater teacher, and the Theater director at Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp, I wrote skits and plays for my students as well as plays for elementary classes to perform. My first published play, “The Christmas Wrap Rap,” was in Plays Magazine. One day I picked up a YA novel that someone had left behind in my drama room and thought, I could do this. My mom always said, “You never know until you try.” I decided to try. As for why I chose to write children’s books, I actually feel like they chose me. Maybe it’s because I was a classroom teacher for many years, but the ideas that pop into my brain are for kids your age or younger.

4. How hard is it to publish books? –Jett

Erin Dealey: It’s super fun to actually create a story. I’d say the hardest part about getting it published is the WAITING. If it drives you crazy not to know your grade the second after you turn in an assignment, multiply that times 1,000 and that’s what it’s like. You wait to hear feedback from your writing group. You wait for your agent to submit your manuscript. You wait to hear from the editors who have received it. You wait to hear a YES from one of them. OR you wait for your agent to submit it to other editors. Then you wait for them to reply. Meanwhile, you work on another story. And another. Once you are lucky enough to sign a contract, you wait for the editor’s feedback. You wait to find out who the illustrator will be….Are you getting the picture?

5. Who is your sister?–Alejandro

Erin Dealey: Hahahahaha–did she put you up to this?

——-
Qs From Mrs. Baileys’ class:
1. Do you like video games? -Noah
Erin Dealey: I don’t play video games, Noah, but I do know someone who designs them, and lots of people who love them. Sounds like you do, too. And if you think about it, video games begin with a story.  It’s a different form of writing but still very important. Without a good story, the video game wouldn’t be half as much fun, would it?
2. What is your favorite book or book series that wasn’t written by you? -Ellie
Erin Dealey: I’d have to say the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riorden. That is definitely the series I wish I’d written–and absolutely LOVED reading.
3. Have you ever met anyone famous? -Bella 
Erin Dealey: Hmmm…yes, depending upon what you mean by famous. I have had the pleasure of meeting amazing authors like Patricia Polacco, Katherine Applegate, and Kwame Alexander. And I met my share of “movie stars” when I worked as an extra in films–but that’s another story—haha. I suppose I have a few famous friends too, but I don’t think of them that way. Also– I’ve met all of YOU, and you may be famous some day too–right?
4. What was the first idea that you ever had for a book? -Liam
Erin Dealey: The first idea I had for a book became GOLDIE LOCKS HAD CHICKEN POX.

GOLDIE LOCKS HAS CHICKEN POX by Erin Dealey, Illus. by Hanako Wakiyama / Atheneum / Simon & Schuster

5. Do you have any cats? -Bella 
Erin Dealey: I used to have two cats, Sunshine and Grey Cat. Bet you can’t guess what color fur they had–!
We learned that writing is never wrong, and that writing poetry helps us share what’s important to us. Check out some of our poems:

Writing is never wrong,

Wrong like math can be.

Be yourself, express yourself,

Yourself as you want to be.

Be who you are, be true to yourself,

And you can do impossible things.

Things others can only dream of,

Like flying away with wings.

Or becoming a pirate who sails the seas,

Looking for hidden treasure.

Or traveling the world and visiting Asia,

And walking the Great Wall forever!

Reading is a lot like writing,

Because you can do anything.

You can read about magic and adventures

Otherwise only in your dreams.

Or you can read about history,

Filled with dates and facts,

And read all of the books that you find,

Until you know all about the past.

There are many other kinds of books to read,

Yes, certainly, Of course.

But the real reason I wrote this poem,

That rhymes just like a song,

Is to make sure that none of you, none of you, ever forget,

WRITING IS NEVER WRONG!

by Ellie

 —-
I need to find a poem

 I don’t think it’s in my home

 I need a purpose to do it

 I could think of it i knew it

 But i couldn’t renew it

 I thought and thought

 And i still can’t stop doing it

 Can someone anyone?

 I just need to find a poem.

 by Hunter

—-

Music brings everyone together.

The togetherness of everyone really makes me happy.

Happiness is what I feel when I sing songs.

Songs always make me feel better when i’m sad.

Sadness is something that goes away when I sing.

 Music brings everyone together.

by Allora

Dear Earth,

How you please us

Us is a group of people

People is a group

Groups make you better when clean

Clean is better

dear Earth how you please us.

–by Alejandro

—-

Dear Earth,

You are my home!

Home is my happy place

A happy place is anywhere on earth or in space!

I love earth!

by Addy

—-

Dear Earth,

The place you have given us is amazing,

we take care of it,

we help it,

thank you for what you have gave to us,

The place you have given to us is amazing

by Alison
—-
Dear earth u make us happy
happy makes u happy
universe is home
u are home
u make us happy 
 by Jett
Poems can be about anything!

Oh, hello there

Oh I gave you a scare

Scare is the cause of nightmares

Nightmares are bad

Bad in the the night

Night, silence dark

Dark full of lurking

Lurking animals 

Animals of scare

Scare of a nightmare

Nightmare Of scare

Scare of the night so kids beware

Beware of the night

Night with the scare

by Braxton 

—-

Roses are red, Violets are blue

Can i tell my story to you?

Video games keep you entertained

Also bad for you , but i

Don’t play video games a lot.

I am limited

Just like you

Should be nice.

Roses are red, Violets are blue.

That’s my story I read to you.

 by Bryson
 —
Dear minions, 

Minions are yellow

Yellow is the sun

Sun is hot so the minions sweat

Sweat is funny

Funny is cool 

Cool minions are mice 

Mice must be in the next movie Gru . 

Gru is mean

Mean Gru will be sweet

Sweet Gru is in the new zoom movie

Dear minions

by Marcos  

—–

Hi my name is Mary

Paper makes trees

Trees are nature

Nature are where animals live 

Live is a warm home

Home is where your family is

Family is love

Love is joy

Joy is happiness  

Happy people are nice

Nice is peaceful

Peaceful is Mary

by MARY

—–
My Brothers and Their Legos

My brothers like legos

Legos they create with

With legos they make cool things like robots

Robots out of legos have no eyes 

Eyes on robots-if they have them- were drawn

drawing is one of my brothers favorite things to do

Do my brothers draw robots? Yes!

Yes my brothers draw robots 

Robots is what my brothers battle with

With my brothers I play with legos

Legos are what my brothers like

by Chloe 

—–

I had a sleepover with my friends

Friends are the best friends ever

Ever did I have such great friends in the world

The world is around us

I love sleepovers 

by Lydia

—-

Dear Earth,

Do you like butterflies?

Butterflies are very colorful

Colorful is something that makes something beautiful

Beautiful is something that is on a model airplane

I have a model airplane and it is very colorful and pretty

Pretty is something that makes something beautiful

Butterflies are beautiful

Do you like butterflies?

by Eryn

—–
I like my dog , Nico

Nico is a shiba Inu

A shiba Inu is a dog breed from Japan 

Japan is a country. 

A country is a place like America 

America is where my home is

My home is where my brother lives too

My brother goes to high school

High school is where teenagers go

Teenagers get picked up by parents

Parents take care of their kids

Kids go to school

School is something I don’t like

I like my dog, Nico

by Ryan

Erin Dealey: WOW! Those are awesome. thank you for sharing!

PS from our teachers: It was so nice having you today! I really enjoyed it and so did the kids! I am very impressed with their writing and what they were able to do! Thank you again so much for your time; we really do appreciate it and wish you the best!                        –Mrs. Bailey

It was so wonderful having you, the kids absolutely loved it. Thank you so much.                   –Miss Wexler

Erin Dealey: It was my pleasure! I’m so glad they are learning to express themselves through poetry. Thanks for the fun takeover. WRITING IS NEVER WRONG!

Up next on the blog: Stacia Deutsch–author of over 300 books–including:

GIRLS WHO CODE: THE FRIENDSHIP CODE and SPIRIT: RIDING FREE, as well as junior movie tie-in novelizations for summer blockbuster films like HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, the New York Times Best Seller: CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS JR. MOVIE NOVEL, and THE SMURFS MOVIE NOVELS.

Stacia will be talking about her latest release, a picture book bio about Jim Hensen.

And don’t miss the #giveaways from authors Alexandra Alessandri and Vivian Kirkfield. <–Click to find out more.

Until then–happy writing and reading!

Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela! + 4 Qs with debut #kidlit author Alexandra Alessandri + a New Year’s #Giveaway

I’m so excited to share Alexandra Alessandri’s debut picture book,

Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

(Illus. Addy Rivera Sonda / Albert Whitman)

–the PERFECT must-read for our last blog of the year. 

Check out the reviews!

“This gentle family story lets readers know that shyness is nothing to worry about.”―Kirkus STARRED review

“The book’s vibrant colors reflect the story’s celebratory mood.”―Booklist

“A story about overcoming shyness in a unique storybook setting, recommended.”

School Library Journal

Fun Fact:  Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela! and my new release DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 share a new year’s theme. 

AND I love that DEAR EARTH’s illustrator, Luisa Uribe, and Alexandra are both from Colombia. Luisa lives in Bogotá, Colombia, where students like the Earth Heroes in Dear Earth…From Your Friends in Room 5 are helping protect the environment and our natural resources.

Alexandra Alessandri lives in South Florida, but most of her family comes from cities near Medellín and Cali (in Colombia). And get this– Felíz New Year illustrator Addy Rivera Sonda, originally from Mexico, lives in California–which is where I (Erin Dealey) live too. Wait–have we gone full circle here?

Alexandra Alessandri is a poet and Associate Professor of English at Broward College, but today she is wearing her #kidlit author hat.

And there’s a giveaway, friends. 

Time for some questions with Alexandra first: 

Q 1. Congratulations on your debut picture book, Alexandra! I learned so much about Colombian New Year’s celebrations—from wearing yellow underwear to making your own Año Viejo. Do you have a favorite tradition?

Alexandra and her 2018 Año Viejo puppet.

Alexandra Alessandri: Thank you so much, Erin! The Año Viejo tradition is certainly one of my favorites. However, one I loved just as much that didn’t make its way into the book was that of walking around the neighborhood at the stroke of midnight, luggage in hand, in hopes for a well-traveled year. We didn’t travel much when I was a kid, and I always wished to do so!

ED: OMG. This year is the PERFECT year to try that. No one has gone anywhere since March, so why not around the block?

I’m ready!

Q 2. Since Felíz New Year Ava Gabriela! is about shy Ava finding her voice, I’m wondering when (and how) you found your voice—as a shy young child, and as an author?

Alexandra Alessandri: Oh, this is such a great question. Making friends and becoming comfortable with my surroundings were both key factors in helping me shed some of my shyness as a child, and in doing so, they helped me find my voice. I’ve since learned to give myself space in new situations or in new places to warm up. As an author, I think in many ways, I’m still finding my voice. My dad’s passing 13 years ago was perhaps the spark that started shaping it, but it’s taken many poems, many words, and many manuscripts to get to a place where I recognize my voice on the page.

Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela! Interior art–Addy Rivera Sonda / Albert Whitman

Writing tips:

Q 3. Could you share any tips for those wanting to be debut authors like yourself? What New Year’s resolutions might a pre-published author make?

Alexandra Alessandri: I have four main tips for pre-published authors:

1) Write a lot and read a lot.

2) Learn your craft.

3) Be persistent.

4) Stay focused on your own journey.

It’s really easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing—their successes, their book deals, etc.—but it’s not productive for our own growth as writers. Instead, we should be persistent and do the work, including writing, reading, and learning. It’s also important to find our community, including great critique partners. All of these, I think, would make great New Year’s resolutions, or goals!

Speaking of resolutions…

Interior–DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5  (Harper Collins) — by Erin Dealey / art by Luisa Uribe

Q 4. If Ava Gabriela could write a letter to DEAR EARTH, like Room 5 (above), what would she say?

Alexandra Alessandri: I love this question! If Ava Gabriela could write a letter to DEAR EARTH about things she’s doing to help our environment, she would share how she and her cousins helped clean up and recycle after their family’s New Year’s Eve party, making sure there was no litter left behind that might harm the Earth or its animals. She might also tell Earth that back home, she tries to avoid straws or plastic, which hurts the sea turtles and other sea critters she loves.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Erin! Here’s to an awesome 2021!

YES to all of the above.

Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela! Interior art–Addy Rivera Sonda / Albert Whitman

And friends, if you’ve purchased FELIZ NEW YEAR, AVA GABRIELA! (thank you!!) for yourself, your class, or as a gift, Alexandra is happy to send you a signed bookplate, bookmark, & stickers (while supplies last). Fill out this form bit.ly/33WYw1c & she will pop them in the mail!

To learn more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books, check out her web site: alexandraalessandri.com  and follow her on

Twitter: @apalessandri

Insta: apalessandri

Did I mention there’s a #giveaway? 

Yes! And…
You can see her  TODAY, Dec. 29th or on Dec. 31st at Miami-Dade Public Library’s virtual story time! 

Join author Alexandra Alessandri and her puppet friend “Año Viejo” as they say goodbye to 2020 with a virtual storytime and Q&A session. Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!, a warm-hearted story about a shy little girl who meets her large, extended family as they celebrate New Year’s Eve infused with Colombian traditions. Ages 4 – 8 yrs. Space is limited. Online event hosted through Zoom. Registration required. Registrants will receive the Zoom link via email 24 hours prior to start time.

Click on the dates above for more info. 

OK–About that #Giveaway:

In the spirit of the holidays, Alexandra has generously offered to giveaway EITHER a copy of FELIZ NEW YEAR, AVA GABRIELA! or a picture book critique! (Winner’s choice.) 

To enter:

  1. Reply in the comments below and tell us your favorite New Year’s tradition.
  2. For extra tickets in the giveaway hat, share this post on social media (tag us!) and/or subscribe to this blog (info at the top of this post).
As for next year, I have 20 –TWENTY– #kidlit blog interviews scheduled in 2021, with more to come! You can subscribe here so you won’t miss any posts. Meanwhile,  please have a Happy SAFE New Year celebration
and I’ll see you in 2021.

Picture Book Sneak Peek–> FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES + 10 Qs with Vivian Kirkfield and a #Giveaway!

Happy (Almost) Book birthday to Vivian Kirkfield’s collective biography of inventors who didn’t take impossible for an answer.

FROM HERE TO THERE:

INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES

(HMH / Illus. Gilbert Ford/  January 19, 2021)

A JLG SELECTION 

Check out the reviews! 

“These innovations in transportation should inspire readers to go far….Educators will also delight in the hefty amount of supplemental backmatter.” Kirkus

“Kirkfield has a knack for finding elements of human interest as well as historical significance in each account. The colorful, dynamic illustrations help readers visualize the times as well as the challenges faced by the inventors. While this may not be the most comprehensive introduction to transportation history, it’s surely one of the most enjoyable.”Booklist 

This fascinating book launches in January
and WE get a sneak peek!

Here are 10 Qs with Vivian Kirkfield:

Vivian Kirkfield: Thank you so much, Erin,

for inviting me!

Q 1: How does launching FROM HERE TO THERE… in this pandemic—differ from your Jan 2020 book launch of MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books/ Illus. Alleanna Harris)?

Vivian Kirkfield: Great question, Erin. I guess the biggest difference is that everything is being done remotely. Last year, for MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD, I started off with an onsite book launch at my local Barnes & Noble in Manchester, New Hampshire…friends and family came from all over – and I even got to meet friends of my cousin who drove several hours, all the way from upstate New York. And the next day, I flew to Chicago, stayed with family, and did half a dozen school visits and a bookstore event at Anderson’s in Naperville. I returned home at the end of February and that’s when Covid hit…so all subsequent book events ground to a halt. But I was so lucky to have that initial marketing and promotion time.

Publishing in a pandemic…

Vivian Kirkfield: For FROM HERE TO THERE, I’m sure there won’t be any onsite events. However, we are better prepared with online activities, I think. I already have a robust book blog tour scheduled (thank you so much, Erin, for being one of my supporters!) and the publisher, Houghton Mifflin, along with Gilbert Ford, the brilliant illustrator, are arranging a virtual launch party at Books of Wonder in New York City which is VERY exciting. And I’ve been volunteering for several Zoom author visits to a Texas school district, plus I’m signed up for World Read Aloud Day and already have a couple of slots filled. I’m excited to read one of the stories in the book – with nine separate biographies, there is a lot to choose from!

*ED note: Check out part of the blog tour here–
Unpacking the Picture Book Power

Q 2. What was the inspiration for FROM HERE TO THERE…?

Vivian Kirkfield: My sister and I chat on a daily basis and she’s always telling me interesting tidbits – like how a friend of a friend is the granddaughter of the founder of the Greyhound Bus Company and how he came here from Sweden in 1905 with only $60 in his pocket. After several unsuccessful attempts at various lines of work, Eric Wickman began offering shuttle rides to the miners in Hibbing, Minnesota. The rides were so popular, he built a bus to hold more customers and built a business that became Greyhound. One of the coolest things is that he always tried to work together and partner with competitors. The story fascinated me and I wanted to learn more so I researched, reached out to the granddaughter, and wrote the story. And when Ann Rider at Houghton Mifflin received the manuscript, she had a vision for a compilation book that would include biographies of a wide range of people whose inventions changed the way the world moves.

Check out the first page of the chapter on Eric Wickman and the Greyhound Bus! Art by Gilbert Ford.

Q 3. How did you choose these inventors?

Vivian Kirkfield: Choosing the inventors was a challenge, but so much fun! The editor asked me to come up with a list of 7 to 10 diverse inventions/inventors – and the only guidelines were that she wanted me to show the Ah-ha moment for each invention and she wanted all of the stories to be engaging narratives with STEM sidebars. I had already written a picture book bio about the Montgolfier brothers and the first manned hot air balloon – so that was a no-brainer. And of course, I had the bus story about Eric Wickman. Finding inventors of things that move wasn’t difficult, but finding information about the Ah-ha moment, finding information about their childhood so that I could begin the story there, finding the heart of each story and weaving it through the narrative – those were the challenges.

I knew I wanted as much diversity as possible – so for the car, I chose Bertha Benz’ ground-breaking road trip instead of her husband’s actual invention of the first gas-powered automobile. And for the boat, the story is about a pioneer in computer programming, one of the African American hidden figures in the Navy, Raye Montague. When her boss challenged her to create a computer-generated design for a frigate in two months, even though it had previously taken years, Raye and her team of engineers did it in eighteen hours and fifty-six minutes!

…every one of the inventors faced huge challenges, but never gave up.

There is also a story about the first folding wheelchair, invented by a former high hurdler who was paralyzed due to a mining accident. And another story about the first robotic device, a mechanical arm now used in manufacturing world-wide. And how about the first bicycle? Did you ever wonder who came up with that? And why? Each story is engaging and entertaining, as well as informational and inspiring – every one of the inventors faced huge challenges, but never gave up. And that’s the thread that ties all of the stories together…and that I hope will inspire kids – that we all need to have hopes and dreams and plans of what might be – and that we can build those dreams into reality.

FROM HERE TO THERE interior –Art by Gilbert Ford.

Q 4. What was the most surprising fact or discovery you made as your book, FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES, went from idea to published book?

Vivian Kirkfield: The most surprising fact? That I could write seven full-length picture book stories in seven months – from ideas to research to rough drafts to polished submission ready manuscripts to working on the revisions suggestions the editor would send me during the entire process. I look back at that time and wonder how I did it because there was a lot of other stuff going on at that time.

PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, February 5, 2019), illustrated by Jill Weber.

I had just signed book deals for Pippa’s Passover Plate and for Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book, and was also doing revisions on Sweet Dreams, Sarah which had been pushed back from its original March 2017 launch date, plus in early 2018, Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe went under contract. And since each book was with a different publishing house and a different editor and a different illustrator, I learned a lot about the publishing industry. 😊

Interior–MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, January 14, 2020) illustrated by Alleanna Harris

Q 5. If younger reader Vivian had read FROM HERE TO THERE, which inventor or visionary would have resonated with her the most? (and why?)

Vivian Kirkfield: Oh Erin, super question! As a kid, I was such a fan of nonfiction…I read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and, if there was nothing to read at the breakfast table, I read the back of the cereal box! I think I’d have to choose Bertha Benz because I absolutely LOVE her courage! Young reader Vivian was a timid child, afraid of going new places and meeting new peoples and doing new things. I would have been inspired by Bertha’s ingenuity – when the car overheated, she stopped at a stream to pour water over the engine. When the fuel line clogged, she used her hat pin to get it unstuck. And when the wooden blocks that served as brakes wore down, she pulled up to a cobbler shop and told the shoemaker to cover the blocks with pieces of leather—first brake pads!!!! Returning home after a successful road trip to her mother’s home 65 miles away, Bertha gave her husband a honey-do list – the improvements he needed to make on the car. And with the publicity her road trip garnered, the cars finally began to sell. I’m happy to say that in 2012, Bertha Benz was inducted into the Detroit Automotive Hall of Fame for her contribution to the automobile industry.

Click above image to view the Detroit Automotive Hall of Fame’s Bertha Benz tribute.

Q 6. Speaking of changes, in looking back at your writing journey, was there an ah-hah moment—from a book, workshop, feedback, writing tip, author keynote, or possibly a “failure”– that changed the way you write children’s books, or changed your path to publication?

Vivian Kirkfield: My writing journey began with a present from my son for my 64th birthday—he took me skydiving. When my feet touched that ground, that was my first Ah-ha moment because I realized that if I could do that, I could do anything. That was 2011…and I joined 12×12 in 2012 when Julie Hedlund started it up. 12×12 was the second Ah-ha moment because I set my mind to writing 12 rough drafts in 12 months…and I did it! In 2014, I took five different picture book writing classes with five different instructors and that was my third Ah-ha moment because it helped me hone my craft and, by the end of that year, I was receiving positive feedback from agents who had read my manuscripts. But I guess, if I have to pick ONE Ah-ha moment, it would be June 2014 when I took a nonfiction picture book writing class and wrote my first nonfiction pb bio…Sweet Dreams, Sarah – or, as I had originally titled it Sarah’s Folding Bed. 😊 Although I do write other types of picture books, my heart is definitely with nonfiction.

Believe in yourself!

Q 7. What tips or advice would you give your former teacher-self, as well as to readers who might want to write children’s books someday?

Vivian Kirkfield: Another great question, Erin! As I mentioned, I was timid. Writing had always been a pleasurable activity for me and I wrote many little stories for my own children, but never pursued them seriously. I guess my advice to my younger self would be: Believe in yourself! In 1967 I graduated from college, got married, and began teaching kindergarten in New York City…and although I read picture books every day to my students, I never thought my name might be on those books one day. The 60’s was a time of great innovation in picture books – Ezra Jack Keats (from my hometown of Brooklyn) wrote The Snowy Day, the first picture book with an African American hero. And Maurice Sendak (also from Brooklyn) wrote Where the Wild Things Are. Perhaps had I been a bit braver or imbued with a bit more self-confidence, I might have ventured into the world of writing picture books sooner. So, my advice to readers would be: Nothing is impossible if you can imagine it.

Q 8. What would you like readers to take away from these inspirational biographies?

Vivian Kirkfield: The main characters in my biographies are really ordinary people…some who had physical difficulties, others had mental difficulties, and still others had difficulties imposed on them in the form of racial or other prejudices. I hope that readers take away the belief that all of them are entitled to have hopes and dreams and plans of what might be…and that they can build those dreams into reality.

Fun fact: Vivian Kirkfield is a former kindergarten teacher, so we asked her… 

Q 9. What question might one of your former kindergarten students ask you about writing or this book? (Besides the random: “I flew in an airplane!”) Please answer. : )

Vivian Kirkfield: Don’t you love those random questions? 😊 But honestly, I find that most of the questions that kids ask are on point. The most popular questions from kindergarteners have been: How many books did you write? Which book did you write first?

Q 10. What is the BEST thing about this writing journey/path to publication?

Vivian Kirkfield: Although I love the writing and I LOVE getting book deals and I LOVE, LOVE sharing my books with kids, my very favorite part of this journey has been connecting with other writers, in person and online – I’ve been so impressed with the kindness and generous spirit of the kid-lit community – and I’m having a blast and living my dream!

Thank you so much for inviting me to chat, Erin!

It was my pleasure, Vivian!

But WAIT.
Here’s the #Giveaway as promised:

Vivian Kirkfield has graciously offered to giveaway a copy of FROM HERE TO THERE OR a pb critique…the winner can decide which! To enter:

  1. Reply in the comments below and tell us the most unusual mode of transportation you’ve used.
  2. For extra tickets in the giveaway hat, share this post on social media (tag us!) and/or subscribe to this blog (info at the top of this post).

To learn more about Vivian Kirkfield and her books, check out her website viviankirkfirled.com and follow her on

Twitter: @viviankirkfield 

Insta: viviankirkfield 

Next up on the blog–

Debut picture book author Alexandra Alessandri talks about:

Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela! 

and new year’s traditions.

Until then, be safe, mask up, and keep reading!

DEAR EARTH… from your awesome 5th Grade friends–> #blogtakeover!

Hi Blog Readers–Our teacher Mrs. Pete read us Erin Dealey’s new book, DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 (Harper Collins) and guess what?

5th Graders still like picture books!

Here are a few things we like about DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5:

  • The pictures by Luisa Uribe and how much color there was. –Omar M.

  • It talked about Earth. –Mireyli M.G.
  • Earth and the kids (and the boy, Bernard) were writing letters to each other. –Alexis H., Madelyn B., Nevaeh H., and Kristy M.

  • The part where they made a veggie garden. –Anthony R.F.
  • The part where Room 5 planted a tree. –Shelly H.
  • How they reused stuff. –Dallis T.

  • People saving the earth. –Haley T.

It made us think about…

  • Taking better care of Earth. –Tyler K.
  • If we can be more eco-friendly, what would that change bout the earth?     –Omar M.
  • Keeping Earth clean. –Mireyli M.G.
  • Not wasting a lot of paper. –Anthony R.F.
  • Starting to create less trash–and compost.  –Shelly H.
  • That you should keep the earth clean and healthy. –Madelyn B.

It also made us think about talking to someone that lives far away from you.

It made us think we should start to save the earth.

It’s something we want to start doing.

Also…

We have questions for you, Erin Dealey:

Q 1. from Tyler K.: What’s the best thing that you could do for Earth?

Erin Dealey: As you saw in DEAR EARTH…, there are many ways we can help Earth all year long. So I think one of the best things we can do is make Earth Day every day. Earth Day is wonderful. But let’s move forward from helping EARTH and our environment on just that day. Why not make these eco-friendly habits part of our daily lives?

Q 2. from Alexis H.: Can you teach us about the four R’s and what we can do to help the earth?

Erin Dealey: If you check out the back matter of DEAR EARTH…, you’ll see my suggestions about the four R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Renew. I chose to add a4th R,  renew, because cleaning up bleaches and playgrounds–really, anywhere that we live–can help restore the extraordinary beauty of our world. And planting a tree not only adds to the beauty (and shade) but helps absorb fossil fuel gases and produce oxygen which refreshes  our air.

PS Your question prompted me to mask up, glove up, and clean up our road. Look at all the trash I found!

Q 3. from Omar M.: How do you come up with stories for a book? 

Erin Dealey: I find ideas everywhere. Sometimes a crazy What If? will pop into my head. Or a phrase that might make a fun title like GOLDIE LOCKS HAS CHICKEN POX (My very first picture book–which I wrote in the pick-up line of YOUR school!) and PETER EASTER FROG, a board book which will be released this January 2021. The inspiration for DEAR EARTH… came from a holiday card of an angel holding Earth in her hands. My first draft was a conversation between the angel and Earth. Eventually, this became the letters between Room 5 and Earth.

 

Q 4. from Nayeli L.S.: Can read read more books….please? 

Erin Dealey: Oh my, YES. Absolutely, Nayeli! Read, read, read!

We zoomed with Erin Dealey and wrote poems about all kinds of things.

Here’s our poem for EARTH:

And here are some individual poems we wrote. Ms. Dealey says they are excellent examples of VOICE:  

Thinking is a gift. 
A gift that is beautiful. 
Beautiful and so very powerful. 
So very powerful it’s scary. 
Scary that,                                          
when converted into action, 
no logic can keep its hands bound.           
by Tyler K.
***
2020 was the worst year
everyone was in quarantine
I lost my brain cells on tik tok 
Cause i was bored 
I don’t know what to write
Class is so hard 
I need to finish my 50 assignment on google classroom half are missing 
by B.M.M.
***
Rudolf has a red nose.
Red noses are rare.
Rare like seeing a rocket ship.
Rocket ships are cool.
Cool like computers.
Computers are fun.
Fun like playing with my dog.
Dogs are cute.
Cute like koalas.
koalas are fluffy.
by Anthony R.F.
***
Tis the season
Seasons change
Change is good
Good is food
Food we need
Need is help
Help is kindness
Kindness we have
by  O.M.
***
Air lets us 
live. Live means
to be alive. 
Alive means awake.
Awake is when
you wake up.
Up is a
movie.  Movie is
Like a play.
Play is having
Fun. 
by N.L.S
***
This year is a dumpster fire.
Fire is hot.
Hot Unlike this year’s songs.
Songs are good. Good is great.
Great is better than good.
Good’s ok. Ok
Is alright. Alright
Is fine. Fine
Is mediocre. Mediocre
Is not this year.
This year is not good.
Good does not define this year.
This year is a dumpster fire.
by Tyler K.
***
Life is amazing 
Amazing is plants and animals
Animals are furry, and colorful
colorful is the pattern 
The pattern is the animal type
And the type is in the heart
Haley T.
***
The world is strange.
Strange that it’s just a tiny marble
Floating around in space.
Space is strange.
Strange that it’s endless.
Endless is the simple concept of time.
Time is a measuring device
Used in the world.
The world is strange.
by Tyler K.
Thank you for letting us
takeover your blog, Erin Dealey.
Thank you for teaching us: 
Erin Dealey: You  guys are amazing!  I LOVED what you wrote.
Keep writing. Keep using your voices. 
Thank you (and Mrs. Pete) for sharing your thoughts with us.
Happy safe Holiday to all. 
Next up on the blog: a sneak peek at Vivian Kirkfield’s latest nonfiction picture book,  FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES, (Illus. Gilbert Ford) which releases from HMH in January.
And did you see the recent interview with THE Sharon Creech?