EENIE MEENIE HALLOWEENIE + Happy Book Birthday Susan Eaddy = 8 Qs + Writing tips!

I had the pleasure of getting to know Susan Eaddy at a recent event for Children’s Environmental Health Day and can’t WAIT for you to meet her too.

Plus a #Halloween book + repurposing + imagination = win-win-win! 

Right?

Check out this STARRED KIRKUS review: 

Deciding what to wear for #Halloween can be tough.

“Eenie meenie Halloweenie”—so many choices. That’s what the kid in this bouncy rhyming charmer faces. There are so many things to dress up as, and the costumes can be made with just a little ingenuity and a few props.

…The book’s rollicking verses zip along with lively good cheer, abetted by delightful, energetic, colorful illustrations…” 

 

Q 1. Congratulations on your STARRED review for EENIE MEENIE HALLOWEENIE! What inspired you to write this adorable book?

Susan Eaddy: Thank you Erin! I was stunned and thrilled. The idea actually came years ago when I was showing my portfolio to an art director at Scholastic. She saw one of my Halloween illustrations and suggested that I write a non-scary book about Halloween. So I did. It wasn’t that great. I had quite a few discouraging critiques on it. But I noodled with it over the years, finally found the title and the perfect rhyme. When my agent asked if I had a Halloween book, Voila! The manuscript and the timing were finally right and Harper Children’s picked it up.

Click image to view trailer.

Q 2. They say every book is a bit autobiographical in some way. Are you more like the character in EENIE MEENIE HALLOWEENIE or Poppy from POPPY’S BEST PAPER and POPPY’S BEST BABIES (Illus. Rosalinde Bonnet / Charlesbridge)?

Susan Eaddy: Ha! I am definitely like Poppy in Best Paper. I fight procrastination, and distraction. Cleaning or cat petting never looks so good as when I have a deadline I SHOULD be working on. Like Poppy, I have lots of different interests, I ALWAYS think I can do it all. I fool myself into thinking this project will be easy. NOT. Every project is always much more work than I expect it to be. That is the shadow side of being an optimistic dreamer.

Q 3. What surprises did the illustrator, Lucy Fleming, bring to your book?

Susan Eaddy: Well, I’m an illustrator too and I always make an illustrated book dummy for my books. One huge surprise is that the publisher actually showed the dummy to Lucy, and I saw the influence of my dummy in many of the final pages!

Interior art: Lucy Fleming /EENIE MEENIE HALLOWEENIE by Susan Eaddy / Harper Collins

Susan Eaddy: As my editor said “We’re so glad that we were able to honor your vision, along with having Lucy’s charming and unique paintings.” I was glad too, and even happier that Lucy’s adorable character and vibrant settings enhanced the book in so many ways.

Interior art: Lucy Fleming EENIE MEENIE HALLOWEENIE by Susan Eaddy / Harper Collins

Q 4. How has your career as an Art Director (*with a Grammy nomination* Fun fact: She lost to Madonna!) influenced your work as a picture book author?

Susan Eaddy: One of the best lessons I learned an Art Director in the music business was not to be intimidated by big names (hard for a shy person!) and to work with as many top-notch professionals as I could. There is always so much to learn. But also… I found that life is too short to work with unkind or toxic personalities. That carries over into all aspects of art & life now. I try to surround myself with people who are great at what they do, are much better than me in writing and illustrating, and are also kind and honest.

Q 5. I’m so jealous that you’re part of the SCBWI Bologna team! Can you tell us what that international event is like?

Susan Eaddy: This is a bit of a convoluted story. Bologna Children’s Book Fair is a HUGE trade fair, with publisher booths from all over the world, large & small, ALL children’s books, and it is primarily for making connections to secure foreign rights on books. It is also a showcase for illustrators & while there you see cutting edge art from all over the world.

Going to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair had long been on my bucket list. In 2012 I discovered last minute, that one of my illustrations had been chosen for the SCBWI art showcase, and with the help of a flight attendant friend’s buddy pass I decided to just GO. I traveled alone, knew no one, but did let the International SCBWI Regional Advisor know I would be there. The SCBWI booth became my home away from home. I helped out in the booth and 2014 found me back again. Again, I helped out, and before I knew it, I was asked to help with designing a new booth and I found myself on the Team. The SCBWI has expanded that booth and the membership benefits to include a juried Bologna Illustration Gallery, a manuscript contest for the Dueling Illustrator’s Competition, and face-to-face portfolio and manuscript critiques with Art Directors & editors. The connection to the world-wide community has been life changing.

Writing Tips

Q 6. As the Regional Advisor of SCBWI Midsouth, I’m sure you see a lot of manuscripts from those just starting out. Are there any tips you can share with pre-pubbed writers and illustrators?

Susan Eaddy: I think the main tip and one that many don’t want to hear, is that this business is a marathon, not a sprint. If writing for children is truly your passion, you won’t be able to stop yourself from hacking away at it even while you collect many rejections along the way. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve grown discouraged and flirted with quitting… but before I know it, I am back revising a manuscript or illustration.

And to get you through those discouraging times, you need to find your people. I have found ALL of my best writing & illustrating buddies through the SCBWI. I go to conferences and take craft classes and am ALWAYS trying to up my game. I get inspiration & solace & honesty from my critique groups, and I learn SO much when I critique their work as well. We cry on each other’s shoulders and cheer each other on!

A sample of Susan Eaddy’s darling clay art from her website portfolio.

Click here to view more.

Q 7. What new projects are you working on now?

Susan Eaddy: I’m so excited to be illustrating a new book in clay! Joy-Jordan Lake is the author & the release date is Fall 2021. I am scrambling to get the work done on deadline! I’m also working on a cover and interior spread in clay for BabyBug magazine.

Ahem…since my new picture book,

DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5

(Harper Collins/ Illus. Luisa Uribe)

comes out in FIVE WEEKS–

Here’s one more question:

Q. 8 If the main character in EENIE MEENIE HALLOWEENIE could write EARTH a letter, what would it say?

Susan Eaddy: Oooh I love this book so much! And my main character has so much in common with the kids in Room 5! Here’s her letter:

Dear Earth,

Happy Halloween! I am recycling cardboard to make a great suit of armor. I’m going to be a lady knight who fights for the earth! I even made a cardboard helmet and found some bird feathers on the ground to use as a decoration on top. The October days are getting colder, but I always wear a sweater at home because we keep the thermostat low to save energy.

Sincerely,

Susannah Isabelle

LOVE this! I think your character would get along great with Bernard and the kids in Room 5! (Interior art by Luisa Uribe/ DEAR EARTH/ Harper Collins)

Susan Eaddy: Thank you Erin, for inviting me on to your blog! I am honored to join the roster of your amazing Author and Illustrator friends!

Thank YOU, Susan.

To find out more about Susan Eaddy and her books, go to SusanEaddy.com, and follow her on Twitter  @EaddySusan  and Instagram @SusanEaddy 

Look at the cool monkey costume Susan put together from repurposed materials–just like in EENIE MEENIE HALOWEENIE!

Have a SAFE, fun Halloween, friends.

Next up, we’ll chat with Gretchen McLellan about her book, NO PARTY POOPERS!

 

8 Qs + a Happy Nonfiction Book Birthday party = Angie Bullaro’s BREAKING THE ICE

Happy Book Birthday TODAY to debut author Angie Bullaro and

BREAKING THE ICE:

The True Story of the First Woman to Play in the National Hockey League.

(Simon & Schuster / Paula Wiseman Books / Illus. C.F.Payne)

JOIN THE PARTY TODAY!

(Link to the Vroman’s event here and

in Q 1. below.)

in Children’s Hockey Books

“An eminently enjoyable biography, not just for hockey fans, but for all who love stories of pioneering women.”

-Kirkus Review

BREAKING THE ICE is the inspiring true story of Manon Rhéaume, the first and only woman to play a game in the National Hockey League, featuring an afterward from Manon herself.

Today we’re celebrating BREAKING THE ICE—about never giving up, #GirlPower, and hockey—with 8 Questions for author Angie Bullaro! 

Q 1. Congratulations Angie! How are you planning to celebrate the book launch of BREAKING THE ICE during these COVID times? Is there a virtual party in the works?

Angie Bullaro: Yes! We’re doing a free virtual launch TODAY:  Tuesday, Oct. 20th at 7pm ET/ 4pm PT. Manon Rhéaume, whom the book is about, will be joining me for a fun, family-friendly event! You can register here. 

Q 2. What Hockey term / slang best describes your writing journey for this book:

  • Barnburner
  • Breakaway
  • Coast to coast
  • Silky Mitts
  • Tic-tac-Toe

Angie Bullaro: First, great question!!! I would say barn burner all the way! Getting to know Manon and tell her story has been one exciting ride!

Barn Burner: (def.) An event, typically a hockey game that is very exciting or intense all the way to the end.

Q 3. What surprises did illustrator C.F.Payne bring to the book?

Angie Bullaro: The scope of it all. He was able to capture the intensity and hugeness of Manon’s experience at the professional training camp, while still highlighting her unique place within it. He really makes you feel what it would be like to have been the only female, and a small female, amongst all these giant male players.

Interior art by C. F. Payne BREAKING THE ICE, S&S Paula Wiseman Books 2020

Teamwork!

Q 4. Creating a children’s book takes a team. What does it mean to you to have teamed up with Manon Rhéaume for this project? Who else is on your team?

Angie Bullaro: I’m really into the team aspect of this, because it truly does take a team and I’ve been so lucky to have a great one behind this book.

Manon has been an integral part of the team from day one. It’s her story and I always wanted to make sure that it was accurate but also that she was happy with it. I also wanted the small details, the forgotten memories, the things that don’t get mentioned in the interviews because that’s where the story really comes alive. I feel very luck to be able to talk with her or ask questions whenever they arise. And through that we have become very good friends, which was a happy bonus.

My husband, Mike Musco is for sure the co-captain of this team. Not only has he been my moral support, he has also handled the publicity of the book and manages everything with Manon and my schedules and events. He’s the face behind the curtain making it all happen.

And of course, my fabulous team at Simon and Schuster. Sarah Jane Abbott, Paula Wiseman, and our Canadian publicist Mackenzie Croft have been champions of the book from day one. Their support, encouragement, advice, and knowledge are second to none!

Q 5. In addition to your friendship with Manon, what was one of the most surprising discoveries you made in creating this book?

Angie Bullaro: That I could write a nonfiction book! Ha! I’m a fiction writer and so when I first decided to writer her story it was a daunting task. I felt like I was starting all over again from the beginning as a writer because I didn’t know what I was doing. Eventually I got there, though, with the help from my SCBWI critique group (additional members of the team for sure! It takes a village!!!).

Click this image below to view:

Q 6. I read that your film, Between the Pipes, was actually the inspiration for this book. What, then, was the inspiration for Between the Pipes?

Angie Bullarro: Mike and I own a production company and were working on our next film concept and we wanted it to be a sports film that I would star in. I had remembered hearing about a woman playing in the NHL in the 90s and had assumed a lot of women had done so. I thought we should find the first woman who made it and tell her story. After a lot of research we discovered that there weren’t a lot of women who played in the NHL, there was only one – Manon. That made what she did even more incredible and I knew I had to tell her story.

Nonfiction Tips

Q 7. How did you first reach out to Manon?

Angie Bullaro: Oh my gosh, I tried every way possible to reach out to her short of sending a pigeon. I sent her messages through her website, reached out to random people I was connected to on LinkedIn who somehow had a connection to someone else who had a connection to Manon. I called up everyone I knew in MI to see if anyone could get me to her. I was getting desperate and throwing hail Marys, but eventually she responded to a message I sent on her website. Thankfully!

Q 8. Do you have any tips for authors who are writing nonfiction about a person who is still alive?

Angie Bullaro: If it’s possible try to work with the person to tell their story. It seems obvious but it’s not. Throughout these past few years several people have written sports books about women trailblazers that have included Manon’s story. Apparently they didn’t need Manon’s approval and so we learned about them after the fact. Those stories were always a little off. The authors were getting information they read on the web, which isn’t always accurate. If you’re going to tell someone’s story you want to make sure you have the full story because people’s lives are so much more robust and nuanced than facts you pull from online.

Also, even though it’s someone else’s story you’re writing about, you have to find a way to make the telling your own. That’s where the magic happens! Because no one can tell the story the way you do.

Interior art by C. F. Payne BREAKING THE ICE, S&S Paula Wiseman Books 2020

Q 9. How is being a goalie like writing a book? How is it different?

Angie Bullaro answers this question and MORE in the second part of her interview, which will post next month! Until then…

*Don’t forget to go to her book launch TODAY! 

Thanks so much for joining the blog today, Angie, and HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!

May it be the first of many.

To learn more about Angie Bullaro and BREAKING THE ICE check out AngieBullaro.com and follow her on Twitter @AngieBullaro and Instagram @angiebullaro.

Next time, we’ll be celebrating #Halloween and talking #kidlit with author Susan Eaddy and her adorably clever book, EENIE MEENIE HALLOWEENIE (Harper Collins / Illus. Lucy Fleming.)

 Stay safe, friends.

5 Qs + 6 (SIX!) Book Birthdays for Sue Fliess = Publishing #kidlit in a pandemic, part 6

In part 6 of Publishing #kidlit in a pandemic, we’re chatting with prolific #kidlit author Sue Fliess (* pronounced fleece), who has celebrated SIX Book Birthdays this year including two this month—WOW!

CHRISTMAS CHEER a super cute counting board book with Scholastic/Cartwheel, launched Oct. 6th. (Wait–a Christmas book in October? See Q 3. below.) Illustrated by Jay Fleck, it’s the companion counting book to HAUNTED HALLOWEEN.

And TODAY, October 13th, is the Book Birthday of the Spanish edition of Sue’s bestselling Little Golden Book I’M A BALLERINA :

Soy bailarina de ballet (Random House Little Golden Book, Illus. Joey Chou) is the perfect read for National Hispanic Heritage Month/ National Latinx Month, (Sept. 15- Oct.  15) or anytime.

Let’s give these books a party,

shall we? 

CONGRATULATIONS,

Sue Fliess.

Boy do we have some questions for you!

Q 1. What challenges have you had launching your books during this pandemic?

Sue Fliess: Hi Erin! Thanks for having me on your blog.

Challenges for book launches during a pandemic…

where do I begin?

Authors already have so many challenges launching books in a non-pandemic world! There is so much noise, so many books launching at the same time—often by bigger, more well-known authors and illustrators—that getting even a tiny slice of airtime for your book seems like a miracle. I’ve done the bookstore signings where no one shows and you sign a bunch of stock, and the only sales are from bookstore staff, most likely out of pity.  (And believe me, even with 35 books out, in-person events like this still happen).

Publishing in a Pandemic

Sue Fliess: I had two books publish on March 3 (HOW TO FIND A UNICORN / Sky Pony/ Illus. Simona Sanfilippo, and FLASH AND GLEAM Light in Our World / Millbrook / Illus.  Khoa Le) roughly 10 days before my state (Virginia) shut down. I was set to visit two schools that week in New Jersey, and the focus would have been on those books and getting to share them with students. I never got to launch them. My Unicorn book has literally just been sent to my reviewers because the publisher’s warehouse had shut down for Covid-19.

“A ray of light, both illuminating and beautiful.”

KIRKUS

The FLASH AND GLEAM illustrations by Khoa Le are magical!

That said, even though publishing books during a pandemic is a huge bummer, I realize I’m still so fortunate—my books were not debut books, I wasn’t counting on the sales to be able to sell my next book, and I have enough of a brand/following that they didn’t flop out of the gate. (that’s not to say it didn’t really hurt sales!) I reminded myself of this to keep it in all in perspective. I did a bunch of virtual (live and recorded) readings of my books so folks could see the books, but of course, all my school visits, bookstore events, speaking gigs for conferences and the like were either cancelled and only a small percentage were converted to virtual.

“A silly, inspiring story of a princess who makes her scientific dreams come true.”

KIRKUS 

THE PRINCESS AND THE PETRI DISH / Albert Whitman / Illus. Petros Bouloubasis, published in April, and I did some virtual events with my publisher as well as some recorded readings. Thankfully this is part of my STEM fractured fairytale series, so fans of Little Red Rhyming Hood and Mary Had a Little Lab were anticipating it.

In June, HOW TO MEET A MERMAID / Sky Pony /Illus. Simona Sanfilippo, published and in a great stroke of luck, our state had opened up just enough that I was able to have an outdoor story time with my local indie! I read Mermaid and Unicorn and it just felt so good to be able to share a book with real live humans.

Thankfully, at the end of the day, there are bloggers and authors like you, who support each other and help get the word out. Thank you!

I’M A BALLERINA interior, art by Joey Chou.

Q 2.  I’M A BALLERINA! is written in rhyme, as are most of your picture books. Does the Spanish edition Soy bailarina de ballet rhyme too? (I have noticed that translations of my rhymed books are based more on the illustrations than on a direct translation. Or are yours true to the text?)

Sue Fliess: I’m so delighted to tell you that the Spanish version still rhymes! I took Spanish through high school, so I’m terribly rusty, but from what I read, it sounds like they were able to closely keep the story the same, while rhyming it in Spanish. I’m very impressed!

Q 3. Tell us more about your Christmas board book, CHRISTMAS CHEER (Scholastic Cartwheel / Jay Fleck / Oct. 6th ) Why is a Christmas book coming out before Halloween?

Sue Fliess: CHRISTMAS CHEER counts to ten as it follows two children on the night before Christmas. They prepare for Santa’s arrival and Christmas morning. In very spare rhyme, it includes lots of Christmas-y things: mistletoe, reindeer, hanging stockings, caroling and more. One star shines / Moonlit pines. Two awake / Cookies bake. All holiday books generally publish a few months prior to the actual holiday so that bookstores and other booksellers can order them and stock them in time to sell them in advance of the actual holiday. Also you have a better chance of being included in holiday book roundups if you can get the book into the reviewers’ hands well in advance of the holiday. And since this one is coming out before Halloween, why not get the companion Halloween book HAUNTED HALLOWEEN while you’re ordering? J

A “Not too scary, not too sweet…way to get the Halloween party started for older toddlers and young preschoolers.”

KIRKUS 

Q 4. What would you say to pre-published Sue, now that you have 35+ titles out in the world?

Sue Fliess: You are not in charge of the timeline. It’s not going to happen when you think it’s supposed to happen. Keep writing and submitting, be patient and work on your craft.

My first book, SHOES FOR ME!, was rejected 28 times before I sold it, but while I was trying to sell it I was writing new stories. By the time I landed an agent, I’d been writing for 3 years and had roughly 10 saleable manuscripts to give her out of the gate. Keep in mind, the first thing you write may not be the first book you sell.

Q 5. What are you working on these days? (How’s that MG novel?)

Sue Fliess: I’m currently working on book 2 in my spy picture book series: BEATRICE BLY’S RULES FOR SPIES (Pixel+Ink , Illus. Beth Mills, Book 1 releases April 2021–ED note: you can preorder now! ), and I recently finished a super fun, energetic picture book that I just sent to my agent…hoping she loves it! It’s pretty much the first fresh new story I’ve written in a while. Hmm, that MG novel is still here. Giving me side-eye. I thought I was going to finish it during the pandemic, but my anxiety took a front seat and I actually did not get much writing done at all this spring. But I just gave myself that space and forgave myself. I do feel like I’m ‘coming to’ a bit more now. Getting excited about writing again and actually coming up with new ideas. Phew!

ED: I love that Sue. We’ve all been reeling from so much craziness this year. It’s important to give yourself permission to not write sometimes.

And it was so much fun to celebrate Children’s #Environmental Health Day with you and your beautiful book THE EARTH GIVES MORE (Albert Whitman / Illus. Christiane Engel.)

Do your part. Use what you know.

Help the Earth to thrive and grow.

excerpt from THE EARTH GIVES MORE

Huge thanks to Sue Fliess for taking the time to chat today, and

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAYS x 6! 

To find out more about Sue Fliess and her books, check out SueFliess.com and follow her on Twitter @SueFliess & Instagram @suefliess. (***Did you know Katy Perry reads her books?) Also–here’s a fun flashback of our first interview together WAYYYY back when.

Up next, we’ll be talking to actor, producer and debut picture book author Angie Bullaro about #kidlit publishing, Girl Power and hockey!

Meanwhile, stay safe–and VOTE!

Happy October #Kidlit Book Birthdays = 5 Qs + 2 Authors

It’s time for part 5 of Publishing #kidlit in a Pandemic, and I’m excited to showcase these #2020BookLook authors and their lovely books:

SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES

by Melissa Berger Stoller 

(Spork/ Illus. Lisa Goldberg / Oct. 20)

Sadie loves listening to Nana’s tales, especially about the traveling candlesticks, kiddush cup, and challah cover they use every Friday night. Will Sadie ever be able to tell her own special Shabbat stories, just like Nana? Based on true stories in the Author Melissa Stoller’s family, this book celebrates family history and connections.

Interior of SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES illustrated by Lisa Goldberg.

Check out SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES’

 trailer here. 

AND 

THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN

by Julie Abery

(Kids Can Press/ Illus. Pierre Pratt– Oct. 6)

Told in rhyming verse, this is the true story of João Pereira de Souza of Brazil, who cared for a Magellanic penguin that had been caught in an oil spill–and their unlikely friendship.

João hears “a sorry screech” as he walks along the shore near his home… 

Interior of THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN, art by Pierre Pratt.

  • Both books combine interesting cultures with real life stories/connections.
  • Both include an older adult character, connections, and kindness.
  • Both books release this month–in these chaotic times–and deserve more fanfare. Right?  

Welcome Melissa and Julie! 

Melissa Berger Stoller: Thanks, Erin! I’m so happy to be featured on your blog along with my friend and fellow #2020BookLook member, Julie Abery! And I’m excited to get my copy of Julie’s new book, THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN.

Q 1. What inspired you to write these stories?

Melissa Berger Stoller: I was inspired to write SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES because of stories I have heard over the years about my own family. Specifically, my father Harry often spoke about the years he spent in Europe during World War I. He was born in New York, but his mother took him to Europe to meet his grandparents. His father stayed home to work. My father and grandmother were caught during the war and couldn’t return to almost ten years! This story always captured my imagination, and I heard more family history from my father’s brother, Uncle Sam, over the years. Later, I heard stories about my husband’s grandfather Reuben, who left Russia when he was a teenager in 1917 due to violence against Jewish people at that time.

Melissa and her father, Harry.

He left with only his younger brother and a few items and made his way to safety in America, never seeing his parents again.

Melissa with Nana Jessie.

These stories resonated with me and I knew I wanted to incorporate them into a book. And I channeled my Nana Jessie, who was a great storyteller herself. It all came together in Sadie, the main character in SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES. She has a wonderful relationship with her Nana, and learns about her heritage through her Nana’s Shabbat stories. And one day, Sadie finds her voice and learns to tell her very own stories.

#DreamTeam

I was so happy that Callie Metler-Smith, the publisher at Clear Fork Publishing (Spork Imprint), shared my vision, and Mira Reisberg was a joy to work with as Editor/Art Director. Along with the immensely talented illustrator Lisa Goldberg, we were a #DreamTeam!

Julie Abery: Wow! This sounds fascinating, Melissa! I cannot wait to add SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES to my bookshelf when it publishes later this month! I love true stories, Erin, and I am thrilled to share a little bit about my inspiration for THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN with you today.

In 2016, I read about João Pereira de Souza and Dindim’s adorable story in the news. It was such a heartwarming story about a man and his penguin pal, that I couldn’t resist digging further into the Google blackhole to find out a little more about it. I pawed over photos, videos, read lots of articles, and scribbled “Tiny penguin, stuck like glue, dripping in an oily goo” and “Fishy kisses” into my notebook. The story remained that couple of lines until a few years later when I was looking for a story idea for Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words story contest. Top tip… keep a notebook!

After the contest, I decided to expand the story start. I particularly liked the link to nature and conservation, as my son is an ecologist. After I had shared the story with my agent, we agreed that I should take it along to Bologna Book Fair with me.

ED note: Lucky Julie lives in Switzerland!

Julie Abery: I had a meeting already scheduled [at the Bologna Book Fair] with Kids Can Press, who had just signed my Sakamoto Swim Club story, so I shared it with them…

It was such a pleasure working with my editor at Kids Can Press and award-winning illustrator Pierre Pratt to really make the text sing and add a layer of fun and humor.

Interior of THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN, art by Pierre Pratt.

Q 2. What discoveries did you make while researching/writing these stories?

Interior of SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES illustrated by Lisa Goldberg.

Melissa Berger Stoller: I did lots of research for SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES. While researching at Ancestry.com, I found census records and even the ship’s log for my father’s journey back home to New York. All these historical documents, as well as details about the ritual objects associated with Shabbat, helped shape the narrative.

Julie Abery: In writing  THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN, I discovered many things about Magellanic penguins, also called banded penguins because of their unique striped pattern. They mostly live in south America and the Falkland Islands. In the spring, they migrate north to warmer places at the same time as shoals of anchovies are on the move…dinner on the swim — how convenient! They were named after the Portuguese explorer Francis Magellan, who discovered the species in 1519 on his voyage around the world. I also found out that Magellanic penguins are monogamous… who knows, perhaps one reason Dindim bonded with his rescuer?

Q 3. What surprises did your illustrators bring to your stories?

Interior art by Lisa Goldberg / SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES

Melissa Berger Stoller: Lisa Goldberg brought such joy and illumination to this book! Her Chagall-inspired artwork adds an exquisite layer to the book. I particularly love the dreamy quality of her illustrations, and her color palette. Also, she incorporates a visual story thread throughout of a playful cat – I know that readers will enjoy looking for the cat as they read the book.

Julie Abery: The first illustration I saw from Pierre Pratt for João and Dindim was their portrait. From that moment, I knew that THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN was going to be adorable. The connection he created between the characters was so loving and sweet, and the book’s warm color palette takes me right to the beach! He also became involved with the revision process, which was great. As Pierre speaks Portuguese, he had access to interviews Jennifer and I didn’t, and so brought some interesting facts to the process.

Interior of THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN, art by Pierre Pratt.

Q 4. What do you hope young readers will take away from these wonderful stories?

FAMILY

Interior art by Lisa Goldberg / SADIE’S SHABBAT STORIES

Melissa Berger Stoller:  I hope that readers will take away an appreciation for their heritage and the special stories that are present in all our families that keep us connected. Now is a wonderful time to interview older relatives to learn about their experiences, both the joys and the hardships. And as I tell students when I do school visits, we are all storytellers. We all have our unique stories that only we can tell.

KINDNESS

Julie Abery: I hope young readers will be touched by the kindness João shows to the penguin, be inspired by the tender inter-species relationship they develop, and will be encouraged to look after nature. The story of  THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN  gives a gentle introduction to oil spills and their effect on nature, which I hope will lead to class discussions on environmental awareness and how we can all help.

Interior of THE OLD MAN AND THE PENGUIN, art by Pierre Pratt.

Q 5. Tell us about your upcoming projects:

Melissa Berger Stoller: I have two picture books releasing in 2021 with Clear Fork Publishing (Spork). RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (illustrated by Sandie Sonke) is the sequel to SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, and it’s a friendship story that incorporates colors, nature, and a little bit of magic.

And I’m delighted to be collaborating with Callie Metler-Smith and Shirin Shamsi on PLANTING FRIENDSHIP: PEACE, SALAAM, SHALOM, a story about three girls from three different faith traditions who cultivate friendship on the first day of school through planting seeds. Callie, Shirin, and I represent the same faith traditions as the girls, and we love working on this project together.

Julie Abery: I have a few books releasing in 2021, Erin. SAKAMOTO’S SWIM CLUB: HOW A TEACHER LED AN UNLIKELY TEAM TO VICTORY (Spring 2021) is another true story, being published by Kids Can Press. It follows the life of science teacher, Soichi Sakamoto and his swim club. The story starts in the irrigation ditches of 1930’s Maui, where his team first learned to swim, and ends in 1948 at the Olympic Games in Wembley, London. It has been stunningly illustrated by the phenomenal Chris Sasaki!

There are also another two Little Animal Friends board books (Amicus Ink) launching in Spring 2021.

Learn more about these authors and their books!

Melissa Berger Stoller– Twitter: @MelissaStoller Instagram: melissa_stoller

Facebook  and on her blog and website: melissastoller.com

Julie Abery– Twitter:  @juliedawnabery  Instagram:  juliedawnabery

Facebook and her website: LittleRedStoryShed

Next time we’ll be talking to the awesomely prolific Sue Fliess about the Spanish edition of I’M A BALLERINA and her new Christmas release, CHRISTMAS CHEER!

Until then–stay safe, everyone!

Publishing #kidlit in a pandemic, part 4 = 6 Qs with author/teacher Ann Marie Stephens

This blog post is for my #Teacher pals who tell me,

“Someday I’d like to write a book.”

Many of you have heard my answer already (See below. *), but today I’m chatting with FIRST GRADE TEACHER and CHILDREN’S AUTHOR

Ann Marie Stephens. 

     

Yes, friends, she writes FUN books,

she’s a FULL TIME time teacher in a Title I school

–pivoting and #distanceteaching in the middle of this pandemic, just like you

–and her newest book,

ARITHMECHICKS TAKE AWAY

(Illus. Jia Liu / Boyds Mill Press),

releases next month: Oct. 20th.

 

Feathery fun for the newly numerate. Take it away, Arithmechicks!

Kirkus

“(B)right, engaging illustrations… (a)n elementary-school teacher, Stephens offers a lively story and a useful appended page with several different strategies for demonstrating subtraction. This cheerful sequel to Arithmechicks Add Up (2019) has its madcap moments, while creating opportunities for kids to use subtraction skills as they enjoy the playful story.” —Booklist

In Arithmechicks Add Up“Ten young chicks make their way to the park for a day of fun, incorporating math into every playground activity… Stephens deftly interprets the usefulness of being able to quickly count and add, and Liu’s texturized digital illustrations convey all the fun of the playground alongside simple mathematical concepts. An enjoyable resource for young ones stepping up their counting game.” — Publishers Weekly

6 Qs with Ann Marie Stephens:

Q 1. What are the challenges of launching ARITHMECHICKS TAKE AWAY during a pandemic, compared to ARITHMECHICKS ADD UP in 2019? 

Ann Marie Stephens: Launching a book in a pandemic means online promotion will be more important than ever. I’m still in the planning phase and I know my launch of ARITHMECHICKS TAKE AWAY will not be anything like the first chick book launch. I was in one of my favorite indie bookstores, Scrawl Books, for that one. The place was packed, there were designer chick cookies, and I had real chickens as my guest stars! I’m not sure what this launch will look like but I’ll try to be creative. I’ve already ordered bookplates to sign and send in the mail, and I have adorable chick swag. Whatever I do, I hope for a lot of participation from family, friends, and book lovers!

ARITHMECHICKS TAKE AWAY, interior art by Jia Liu.

Q 2. How does your teaching job influence or inspire your writing?

Ann Marie Stephens: I haven’t really acquired many ideas while teaching or from my students. What I can say is that teaching first grade grants me the opportunity to read aloud dozens of books each week. I see what makes kids laugh, empathize, and question the world. When a book is too long they will make comments such as, “When is this going to be over?” or “I’m tired!” Then I’m reminded of the importance of pacing and the economy of words when writing my own stories. Lastly, I get to watch kids fall in love with books. That makes me want to write more of them.

Q 3. Is it true that you don’t really like math? (The secret’s out!) Does this mean you’re writing these books to help your younger self navigate the math waters?

Ann Marie Stephens: Yes, it’s true, mostly because I don’t enjoy it as much as other subjects. I was good at math at an early age, but I lost interest when I reached Algebra and Calculus. I couldn’t see their relevance. I know from experience that when you make learning relevant, kids comprehend better. That’s what I’ve tried to do in both Arithmechicks books, and my 2021 book, CATASTROPHE, A STORY OF PATTERNS. This story follows cats on a fishing expedition that ends in disaster. The cats use patterns in their actions, and they even eat a yummy treat to ease the pain of their failed mission. Kids definitely relate to treats!

How do you have TIME????

Q. 3 As a full-time teacher, how on earth do you have time to write books? 

Ann Marie Stephens: I rely on weekends (when I’m not doing school work) and holidays. I also do what I call “stoplight writing”. I print out a copy of my current manuscript and take it with me on my 40-minute commute to school. When I’m sitting at red lights I look at phrases, words, or plot points I need to rework. When the light turns green, I think of solutions in my head while I’m driving to the next red light. Then I jot down my thoughts. I’ve been known to work on stories during boring professional development trainings or staff meetings. I can’t stop my brain from wandering. #writerproblems


Q  5. Any tips for our teacher friends who “want to write a book someday”?  

Ann Marie Stephens: To teachers who are aspiring writers— read as much as you can. Read the kinds of books you want to write because that’s how you learn the craft. Write with your students. Write for your students. Write because your students need to hear your voice and your story. They need to see you inspired by words because it all becomes contagious after that, doesn’t it?

Ann Marie got these masks –with two of her book covers!–from a former student.

What Teachers want parents to know:

“the kids are indeed learning…”

Q 6. CONGRATULATIONS on your 30th year teaching. (THANKS for all you do!) What would you like parents and the community at large to know about Distance Learning/teaching in a pandemic?

Ann Marie Stephens: My students and I began 100% distance learning on August 31. Teaching first graders online feels like being the ringleader of a circus where the Big Top hasn’t been assembled, the performers are stuck in their cages or trailers, and we are expected to work together to put on an elaborate show. Despite this, we are having fun and the kids are indeed learning. Teachers want parents to know that we are trying so hard to be amazing right now. We are sacrificing sleep, weekends, and time with our families to juggle everything being thrown at us. We are also balancing the education of our students while attending to their mental and emotional needs. We love their kids and dream of the day we can be in person with them.

Thank you so much for joining the blog today, and

Happy almost Book Birthday to  ARITHMECHICKS TAKE AWAY. 

To learn more about Ann Marie Stephens and her books, follow her on Twitter @AMStephens_  and Instagram @amstephens_ and check out her blog:  2 Happy Teachers 

Next time we’ll be talking to TWO children’s authors Melissa Berger-Stoller and Julie Abery, and celebrating a few well-deserved (belated) Book Birthdays!

Stay safe, everyone.

*Also–dear teacher friends–about writing that book:

“Someday is NOW.”