Category Archives: Book Giveaway

MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN: interview with Terry Pierce & Carol Schwartz

busygreengardencoverwebsize

I had the privilege of meeting author Terry Pierce a couple of years ago at a retreat. Her new book is brilliantly beautiful–a dream come true for science teachers. This book has gorgeous illustrations, as well as a bit of mystery. Who is lurking? And what is the surprise? Find out in this playful rhyme.

Terry is giving away a FREE COPY!!!  Just leave a comment below to enter.

I chose to ask the same questions to both the author and illustrator, to gain two different perspectives. Terry is the author of more than a dozen books, and Carol has illustrated more than 3 dozen!

Welcome Terry and Carol. I’m honored to be able to interview the duo that created this delightful book.

🐞 What inspires you?

Terry: Nature. Most of my books have some aspect of nature in them. I’ve always been drawn to the natural world. Whether it’s the mountains, the beach, the desert or simply observing a beautiful garden, nature fascinates me. As a child, I could sit in a tree for hours! As an adult, I don’t climb trees anymore but still find myself in nature for long periods of time. It’s calming, peaceful and inspiring.

Carol: Nature, the endless wonder and beauty of it all, inspires me every day. I take great pleasure in the study and research of creatures and plants. They reveal patterns, designs, colors, texture and uniqueness. There is so much to learn and interpret through my art.

🐞 How long have you been doing your craft?

PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)Terry: I started writing for children in 1999. For ten years, I attended SCBWI events and read books to develop my writing skills. Then in 2009, I began the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program, which deepened my craft knowledge tenfold. It’s an amazing program I highly recommend.

Carol: I like to say I’ve been practicing my craft all my life. My mother says that at the age of a year and a half I drew a picture of Mickey Mouse and it looked like Mickey. I started illustrating children’s books in 1989 with a local publisher in Maryland where I lived at the time. Two years later I had an agent and a Hyperion Press trade book, Sea Squares, by Joy Hulme. Now sixty books later, I am still energized with each new project. They are all so different and, fortunately, there are tools I’ve learned throughout my career that help me to navigate the challenges associated with illustrating a picture book.

🐞 What kind of medium do you use?

Terry: I always write my first draft of a picture book with pencil and notepad. I love the feel of writing by hand as the words flow from my brain through my arm to my hand, then finally onto the paper. Doing it this way also slows the process, allowing me to be more mindful of my writing. After the first (very messy) draft, I type the story onto my computer and revise on printed drafts.

carol-schwartzCarol: I work primarily in gouache, an opaque watercolor paint. The opaque or transparent quality, depending on how thick the paint is mixed, make this medium versatile. Gouache is quick drying, which means no waiting time. That comes in handy when working under a deadline, which is most of the time. I also work in Photoshop. It has become indispensable in creating final art for books. I make a high resolution scan of my traditional work and continue to paint in Photoshop. Many details I used to hand render are now finished in Photoshop. In past years I depended on an airbrush for adding large smooth backgrounds or creating smooth textures. Now I use Photoshop to do the same thing.

🐞 How did you get started in the industry?

Terry: I casually mentioned to a friend that I wanted to try writing children’s books. She told me about the SCBWI so I joined. They’re a fantastic organization for anyone who wants to learn to write for kids. They’re what got me started and pushed me in the right direction. If it weren’t for my local SCBWI chapter, I wouldn’t have had my early publication successes.

Carol: I graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute, spending my senior year at Rhode Island School of Design in a mobility program. This gave me a good foundation to be an illustrator. When I decided to concentrate on illustrating picture books, I began attending every conference and workshop I could find. At a seminar in Maryland I signed up to have my portfolio critiqued by an artist’s representative. In time she became my agent and I began illustrating a long line of trade books for publishers such as Hyperion, Scholastic, Grosset & Dunlap and Sterling.

🐞 What is a good piece of advice you would give?

Terry: This is the toughest question! There’s so much good advice to give but what rings true to them all is to be persistent. Keep at it even when the going gets extraordinarily tough (and it will!). No matter what phase of writing you’re in, whether you’re developing your craft, submitting your work, or marketing your work, don’t give up! Identify your mistakes, learn from them and keep going. If you learn and persist, you’ll find success.

Carol: Believe in what you are doing. Become a mini expert in whatever the subject matter is you are illustrating or writing about. Find a way to get really excited about the subject. For me, its research that gives me inspiration and lets me know how to illustrate my subject.

🐞 Do you like gardening? Why did you choose to illustrate this book?

Terry: When I was a Montessori teacher, we had a school garden and I greatly enjoyed gardening with the children. There’s something about putting your hands in the soil, being close the earth, caring for the seedlings and watching them grow to maturity that’s amazing for kids. But that’s not what this book is really about…it’s about what happens in a garden! So why did I write it?

I had decided I wanted to write a cumulative story (where the text builds on itself). I recalled that my Montessori students LOVED Arnold Lobel’s cumulative book, THE ROSE IN MY GARDEN. I looked at that story as a mentor text. Of course, my story had to be different (his showcased flowers), so I pondered how I might keep the same setting, but change the focus, plot and characters. I knew most kids love bugs so I decided to focus on bugs and other animals that inhabit a garden. Then when I got the idea to include the surprise element of the developing chrysalis I was ready to write (which meant a lot of playing with words—my favorite part of writing!).

Carol: I am a long time gardener and much of what I know I learned by illustrating gardening articles for the Home section of The Washington Post newspaper. Much of my gardening has been in the Mid-Atlantic region but I’ve also tended gardens in the South and Midwest. Working to make plants grow and being rewarded with flowers makes me smile. What could be better that illustrating that happy feeling of growing all those beautiful flowers with my paints.

🐞 What are some of your favorite insects?

Terry: When I was a kid, I loved “wooly bears.”  fuzzy
I mean, what kid could resist picking one up one of these cute little fuzzy guys? It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found out they turn into tiger moths!

As an adult, I think one of the coolest insects is the praying mantis (which also happens to be one of my favorite illustrations in the book!). Praying mantises are the rule-breakers of insects. They’re the only one that can turn their head 180 degrees (imagine the advantage that gives them), and after mating the female bites off the male’s head! And the way they hold their front legs ready to strike their prey, yeah, mantises are pretty cool.

Carol: I love how dragonflies and praying mantises look like big, alien creatures. Beetles are interesting because they come in an amazing variety of shapes sizes, colors and patterns. Who doesn’t like butterflies and moths for their many colors and patterns? I respect ants for their eusocial society but I hate coming in contact with them, especially fire ants.

🐞 As a child, what were your favorite books?

fave-books2Terry: I loved any of Dr. Seuss’s books. CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E. B. White was another favorite, along with GENTLE BEN by Walt Morey and RASCAL by Sterling North. Even as a child, books with nature and/or animals appealed to me. Oh, and PIPPI LONGSTOCKING by Astrid Lindgren was a girl after my own heart. Being a tomboy, I saw myself in Pippi. I probably read that book perched in a tree!

fave-booksCarol: I remember favorite childhood books as old friends, there was Charlotte’s Web, Alice in Wonderland, Huckleberry Finn, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh and Marguerite de Angeli’s Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes. I had a bookcase full of Little Golden Books and two large volumes of nature books, Children’s Guide to Knowledge. That’s where I learned of extraordinary creatures such as giant clams, flying squirrels and a strange bird with an extra long tail called a quetzal. Those books fascinated me and, I believe, were the start of my love of nonfiction.

🐞Terry is giving away a FREE signed copy of MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN. Just add a comment below to enter.

If you’d like to know more about Terri and Carol, please visit their websites:

https://terrypiercebooks.com

http://www.csillustration.com

🐞LINKS TO CRAFTS:

Bug jar:

https://momeefriendsli.com/2013/09/04/diy-bug-jar-for-kids/

Make a footprint grasshopper:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/212935888610838461/

Make a colourful paper chain caterpillar with  wobbly eyes and antennae:

http://www.peekyme.com.au/take-a-peek


sarvinder-naberhaus-1200

About the interviewer: Sarvinder Naberhaus is a the author of Boom Boom, a picture book about the seasons, illustrated by Caldecott Honor recipient Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Her upcoming book, Blue Sky White Stars is a patriotic salute to the flag and the forces behind the forging of this great nation. Look for it June 13th, in time for the 4th of July. Illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson.

29 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, cover art, Illustrating, Illustrators, Interviews, Picture books, Uncategorized, Writing

Book Resources for The Nian Monster

Xingling, the main character in THE NIAN MONSTER, is a resourceful girl. When confronted by a ravenous monster, she keeps her wits about her in order to fend Nian off. She’s not afraid to ask for help, either. Over the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get THE NIAN MONSTER into the hands of readers. I heard over and over how everybody loves freebies. So in addition to swag like bookmarks and magnets, I decided to offer additional book-related resources. And, like Xingling, I reached out and asked for help from my community — the wonderful kidlit community.

Here are a few of the resources that were created for my book:

A Teacher’s Guide: Arguably, not every picture book needs a teacher’s guide, especially if it’s fiction. But I felt that there were enough cultural and geographical aspects to my book that a teacher, librarian, or parent might appreciate a guide with more information about Chinese New Year, curriculum-related activities, and discussion questions. I discovered that teacher’s guides can vary in length and cost. Being a debut author, I opted to hire Anna Chan Rekate, a debut teacher’s guide writer, but also a very experienced elementary school teacher. Anna did an amazing job — she even included a personal recipe for sesame noodles! You can download a copy of the teacher’s guide here.

A Book-Related Craft: I confess, I LOVE crafts. My basement is filled with boxes of craft materials and random objects that I save just in case I might need them for a craft. I did a lot of crafts with my sons when they were younger and I knew it would be great to have an activity for after my story time events. Kids love things that they can make themselves and bring home, plus it connects them to the story in a different, more tactile way. The incredibly creative Kirsten Cappy of Curious City (try saying that 3x fast!) developed an origami bookmark craft and illustrator Alina Chau drew the Nian Monster so that it looks like Nian is “eating” the corner of your page! Download the template here and make a Nian bookmark with your kids (or for yourself)! Kirsten and her intern Sophia even made an instructional video, which you can watch below or on YouTube.

nian-monster-finished-origami

The Nian Monster bookmark will chomp on your page!

 

An Event Kit: I knew I needed to reach teachers and librarians, but I was at a loss about how to do so. Again, Kirsten Cappy came to my rescue. She has access to an extensive network of educators. Kirsten recommended creating an event kit so that educators could make story time with THE NIAN MONSTER an interactive experience. The event kit includes instructions and a template for creating a giant Nian mask. An adult can pretend to be Nian or the kids can “feed” Nian fish, noodles, and sticky rice cake just like in the book (fake fish are used — no live fish will be harmed during story time). The event kit is available at Curious City.

Here's me channeling my inner Nian Monster!

Here’s me channeling my inner Nian Monster!

Whether your book has yet to be sold or is headed for publication, it’s not too early to think about what kinds of resources you want to offer your readers. I added an Author’s Note to THE NIAN MONSTER when it was still in manuscript form, explaining the symbolism of the Chinese New Year foods in the story. If there’s an aspect of your story that you think readers would like to know more about, you might consider adding a short Author’s Note as well. And if you decide against it, there are plenty of opportunities to develop and offer educational resources after publication.

Good luck and thank you for celebrating my book launch week with me! Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post (or any EMUs Debuts post this week) to be entered into a giveaway of THE NIAN MONSTER.


andrea-wang-author-photo-2016

Andrea Wang’s debut picture book, The Nian Monster (Albert Whitman & Co., December 2016), is a Chinese New Year folktale retelling set in modern-day Shanghai. She has also written seven nonfiction books for the educational market and is working on a middle grade novel. Andrea is a former environmental consultant and now writes full-time. She recently moved from the Boston area to Denver, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and a dog that will do anything for food. That pretty much describes her family, too.

You can find Andrea online at http://www.andreaywang.com, on Twitter under @AndreaYWang, and on Instagram as @andreawhywang.

26 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, Education, Picture books, resources, Uncategorized

Interview with THE NIAN MONSTER Illustrator, Alina Chau!

The launch for Andrea Wang’s THE NIAN MONSTER continues with an interview with the book’s illustrator, Alina Chau! Scroll below to read about New Year celebrations and mythical monsters, and to see some stellar illustrations!

nianmonstercover

Jason Gallaher: Your illustrations for THE NIAN MONSTER are absolutely stunning! Can you describe your style and the materials used to create the illustrations?

Alina Chau: Thank you.  The Nian Monster illustration is mostly watercolor on paper, except the two pages about Nian’s legend. I use Photoshop to create the Chinese paper puppet look and some of the decorative elements on the flap, that looks like traditional Chinese paper cut art.  As for the style, since this is a Chinese New Year story, I use a design style that is influenced by traditional Chinese folk art and painting.  A lot of the New Year decorations in the book are inspired by the traditional decoration.  The feel and atmosphere of the New Year is very much drawn from my childhood memories in Hong Kong.  Chinese New Year was one of my favorite holidays as a kid.  Before the New Year, the market will be extra festive.  At home, everyone is busy preparing for the big new year dinner.  Chinese New Year dinner is kind of simliar to Thanksgiving here.  It’s an important evening for family to get together and give thanks and good wishes to each other.  Kids often get new clothes in red as a symbol of a new beginning.  I painted my favorite childhood new year memories in the pages.

unnamed

Alina’s workspace

How did you come up with the design for the Nian Monster? Did his look change much throughout the editorial process? Do you happen to have any images of his development that you could share?

As a kid, when we learn about Nian’s story, I always imagined it sort of looking like another Chinese mythological creature, Qilin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qilin).  While Qilin is considered a heavenly creature who protects the mortal world, Nian is a trickster.  Qilin looks a bit more like the relative of a dragon.  I imagine Nian would look like an earthy creature – the Chinese Lion.  I pretty much drew the Nian from my childhood imagination.  As for Nian’s color, my gut feeling is to have it be an orange and red creature, since they are the color of the New Year.  But I also did a color test of the green and blue color scheme.  The doubt I had was that I knew there would be many red elements in the background, as well as Xingling’s outfit.  I was worried the color would clash.  But after the color test, I don’t like the blue and green color.  It doesn’t feel right.  I decided to stay with red and orange and make the color work.

unnamed-1

unnamed-5

unnamed-2

How about Xingling? Is the way she looks now how you envisioned her from the start?

When I first read Andrea’s manuscript, I could see Xingling very clear in my head.  While I knew Xingling’s look well, I did spend some time trying to come up with a cute outfit for her.  I want her to feel relatable to our readers, but still reflect her regional culture trend.  I therefore researched current girl fashion styles in Asia.  The style of her pink dress is fairly trendy in China and Korea.  But I also tried to balance and not to push it too far.  I want the illustration of the book to be time lasting and have universal appeal.  Towards the end of the book, Xingling changes to a little red dress. I wanted her to wear red to celebrate the New Year tradition.

unnamed-3

Your depiction of Shanghai is so detailed and vibrant. Did it take a lot of research for you to create the Shanghai environment, or are you familiar with the area?

Jordan, my art director at Albert Whitman, sent me a lot of reference images of Shanghai.  I also went online and did research to get myself familiar with the cityscape of Shanghai.  I have never been to Shanghai, so all the Shanghai city designs are heavily relied on Google.  As for the atmosphere of the city, that is drawn from my own experience growing up in Hong Kong and occasional travel to China.

unnamed-4

What else are you working on right now?

I am working on a couple of new picture book and graphic novel ideas.  I want to try writing my own books.  My stories are focused in culture diversities, some are drawn from my personal experiences.  I was born in China, immigrated to Hong Kong during British colonial time and then moved to the US.  I have been a citizen of three countries.  I am blessed and never get into bad discriminatory situations.  Yet, it’s still challenging to grow up and be the kid that’s different for one reason or another. With the current political climate, there is more urgency to share diversity stories with children.  Ensure the children that it’s OK to be different.  It doesn’t matter if they have different cultures, skin color, beliefs etc., their voices and stories matters.

 

Thank you so much for your time, Alina! We can’t wait to see what you illustrate next!

Andrea is giving away a copy of THE NIAN MONSTER to one of our readers! Just comment on any of the posts celebrating her launch, and you will be entered to win! You can also buy a copy of the book at IndieBoundBarnes & Noble, and Amazon.

10 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Diversity, Illustrators, Interviews

A Field Guide to Sleepy People

We at EMUs Debuts are all about service. Take, for instance, Mylisa Larsen’s super-helpful and hilarious new book, HOW TO PUT YOUR PARENTS TO BED. And on the last day of the book launch party, we thought we’d give you a little bonus. We hereby present an illustrated guide to recognizing when a grownup needs to go to bed.

Do they start using blankets as pillows and yawn uncontrollably?

IMG_20160204_194713217

“Look out,” says Katie, “all chaos is about to break loose!”

Do their canine companions give them the hairy eyeball…

IMG_1250

Kai beseeches Janet for his last walk so he can go to bed.

…or try to pull them off the sofa?

20160206_200158

Lucy trying to lead Elly off to bed!

Do they have glassy eyes and seem somehow…disembodied?

20160207_191411

Hayley, collect yourself!

Are they just simply not themselves?

Tired Jason

“This is my face when I desperately need to be put to bed. Not pretty. I get this look not only when I’m tired as all get out, but when I’m hangry or have just heard that “America’s Next Top Model” will not be returning for another cycle. Love, Tyra”

Are things getting hairy?

IMG_0678 2

Time to brush, Mylisa!

Are they going ape?

Luke Reynolds bedtime

Luke, stop dragging your knuckles!

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, get that person to bed, ASAP! Simply telling a grownup to go to bed doesn’t always work, however. Mylisa’s book will show you how to put all the sleepy people to bed where they belong in no time at all.

But before you tuck yourself or anyone else in, don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a copy of HOW TO PUT YOUR PARENTS TO BED and a gift certificate for snazzy new pj’s. Just use the hashtag #PutParents2Bed in a blog comment or on social media to enter! The giveaway runs until April 1st.

We conclude this Public Service Announcement and Launch Party with a cute and fun book trailer. Then order your own copy here!

 

8 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Launch, Picture books

Bedtime Blastoff Launch and Giveaway

BB_Jkt_072915It’s the official book birthday of Luke Reynold’s BEDTIME BLASTOFF today. It’s a story of trying to get to bed. But, oh, the distractions when your bed can turn into a train, a pirate ship, a firetruck. . .

So we asked the Emu mob what vehicle they would have wanted their bed to turn into back when they were kids. Their answers (as well as some pretty spiffy photos of them as kids) are below.

Elly Swartz

20160119_142212-1

Let Elly drive the bus! Please.

“I would have wanted my bed to magically become a bus. That way I could have filled with it my dog, Missy, my hamster, Cinnamon, and all of my friends to head out on a nighttime adventure. ”

Debbi Michiko Florence

IMG_1111

Horse? Elephant? Giant bird? Hmmm.

“When I was little, I loved all animals. (I still do.) I slept with so many stuffed animals that I barely had room to move in my own bed. So, it’s very likely that I would have loved for my bed to turn into an animal – like a horse or elephant or giant bird – that could take me and my many stuffed animals on an adventure! (So not really a vehicle, but transportation none-the-less!)”

Janet Fox

JanetFox1

Sailed on a river of crystal light/Into a sea of dew

“My preferred bed:
A boat. I loved the song “Winkin, Blinkin and Nod” – so I wanted to sail off into a sea of blue, rocking on the waves.”

Andrea Wang

Andrea prairie dress

Andrea, channeling her inner prairie girl

“When I was little, I would have loved it if my bed had transformed into a covered wagon, complete with matching horses to pull it. Specifically, the wagon featured on the cover of Little House on the Prairie, with the white canvas bonnet. I eventually cajoled my mom into buying a white canopy for my bed, but she steadfastly refused to get me horses!”

Carole Gerber

Carole&Barb003

Carole and her sister (Carole on the left)

“a single bed! My younger sister and I shared a bedroom and a double bed until I was in 5th grade (and she was in third). We were both thrilled to get our own bedrooms and ordinary single beds when our family moved to a larger home.”

Jason Gallaher

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 4.58.15 PM

Yeah, a dinosaur. Brontosaurus, I think.

“When I was a kid, I wanted my bed to be a dinosaur. I know this isn’t a vehicle per se, but a brontosaurus can get you from Point A to Point B, so I think it counts. I would have a big ol’ nest of blankets on my prehistoric friend’s back, then let her lumbering steps lull me to sleep.”

For a great bedtime read, check out BEDTIME BLASTOFF and see what the imaginative kid and dad in that story come up with.

You can get Luke Reynold’s BEDTIME BLASTOFF anywhere books are sold.

Indiebound

Barnes and Noble

Amazon

Stay tuned all this week for interviews with the author and illustrator and a post that may give you some ideas for your own bedtime routine. And comment on any post this week to be entered to win a signed copy of BEDTIME BLASTOFF.

 

 

 

 

 

13 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Picture books

The Entirely True Story of How Adam Shaughnessy Wrote This Book

fib_coverBefore there was a book, there was a game. An afterschool game in which kids could get together with some friends, join the Fantasy Investigation Bureau, act out a story and solve a mystery. One of the stories, drawn from Norse mythology, featured Ratatosk, an insult-wielding squirrel.

 

Yeah, I know. Sounds like fun, huh?

 

Later, when the creator of these interactive story games, Adam Shaughnessy, started thinking about writing a book, he kept thinking about that story.

Shaugnessy-Adam-c-Angela-Chicoski-Photography_2MB

Adam Shaughnessy

It had a lot going for it—a fabulous world, suspense and intrigue and, of course, the afore-mentioned squirrel. Admit it, writing lines for a squirrel who spends his days running up and down an enormous tree shuttling insults between an eagle at the top and a dragon at the bottom is almost irresistible.

 

And now the result of all that fun and hard work is out in the world in a bookstore or library near you. We’re celebrating all week here. Pick up your own copy of The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable Fib or comment on any post this week to be entered to win a signed copy. (Hey, maybe Ratatosk will sign your copy.)

Here’s where you can buy a copy of The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB.

Indiebound

Amazon

BAM

Barnes & Noble

And if you’d like to hear more about the enrichment activities that became The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable Fib, click here.

6 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Creativity

An Interview with THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT editor Jacque Alberta

And for the grand finale of our week of all things LOONEY, we caught up with Zonderkidz Senior Editor Jacque Alberta about Luke Reynolds’s debut middle-grade novel THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT.

Here’s a little reminder about this wonderful story, from Luke’s web site:

Atticus Hobart couldn’t feel lower. He’s in love with a girl who doesn’t know he exists, he is the class bully’s personal punching bag, and to top it all off, his dad has just left the family. Into this drama steps Mr. Looney, a 77-year-old substitute English teacher with uncanny insight and a most unconventional approach to teaching. But Atticus soon discovers there’s more to Mr. Looney’s methods than he’d first thought. And as Atticus begins to unlock the truths within his own name, he finds that his hyper-imagination can help him forge his own voice, and maybe—just maybe—discover that the power to face his problems was inside him all along.

Looney Experiment

And without further ado, here’s Jacque!

Tam: What was it about THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT that made you want to acquire it?

Jacque: It hooked me in the first chapter. Atticus’s character felt so relatable and real—a kid who is very withdrawn publically, but has this amazing internal voice and humor. And the journey of finding the courage to be who he really is—to risk putting himself out there—is done so well. I immediately felt like this was a character and a story I needed on my list, because Luke’s story is not only really entertaining, it also has a storyline that can help readers see how they too can overcome what feels impossible to face in their own lives.

Tam: What do you love most about Mr. Looney?

Jacque: He is that teacher we all wished we had. He’s a substitute, but he puts all of himself into the job, and even takes the time to notice what Atticus needs—something no one teacher has ever done before. His giving Atticus his signed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird remains one of my favorite things about Mr. Looney—helping Atticus really see who he is and what he can do means more than a book that is likely worth a lot sentimentally and monetarily.

Tam: And then of course I need to ask, what do you love most about Atticus? 

Jacque: Atticus has a great voice, and is such an appropriately wise soul. He is insightful in many ways, but still a teenage boy who probably secretly still likes fart noises a little bit too. And his journey from a kid who can barely speak in class to becoming the spokesperson for a group of students at the end is a fantastic one. I also loved that even though he does mature a lot in the book, he never totally loses the humor he had at the start—his fart-noise contest with Adrian toward the end was great!

Also, I loved Atticus’s list of what guys should and shouldn’t do in middle school!

Tam: It is always so inspiring and enlightening to learn a little about the behind-the-scenes editing process.  Can you give us some insight into how you approached editing this book?  What was it like to work with Luke? 

Jacque: Actually, the editing on this was one of the easiest processes I’ve had in a long time! The manuscript that was submitted was quite clean—and Luke was fantastic with revisions and rewrites. Most of what we worked on was making sure Atticus’s journey toward courage felt natural, so that the reader can see the gradual awakening after meeting Mr. Looney, and then how Atticus regained that confidence after Danny’s attack. And also debating over fart jokes and the like …

We also tried to keep up with the developing news over Go Set a Watchman, as To Kill a Mockingbird is so central to the storyline. When it was announced the precursor to To Kill a Mockingbird would be coming out, we had to scramble to change references to Harper Lee’s publishing story in real time, knowing our book was going to the printer before Go Set a Watchman would be in stores and the storyline known.

Tam: Who do you see this book appealing to? 

Jacque: My hope is that middle-school boys will find the book and enjoy the story, and see some of themselves in Atticus. And I think girls will enjoy it as well, as Atticus is just a wonderful character—and there’s a nice love story of sorts with Audrey Higgins to help balance the fart jokes JI also hope all readers leave with a sense that what is inside you matters … even if middle-school you feels like only other’s outside perceptions matter.

I think adults will love it too, as there’s something about middle school that never leaves us. And the journey Atticus takes is one that everyone has to take at some point—deciding who we are, what we want to become, and taking the brave leap to make that us known.

Tam: And, finally, is there anything else you would like to add? 

Jacque: Hmmm … Only that I loved working with Luke, and hope this book becomes a huge bestseller for him, because it’s a fantastic story by a fantastic person and author.

Well, that’s just about the truest truth ever spoken. Luke Reynolds is SUCH a fantastic person and THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT is SUCH a fantastic story! Comment below and you’ll have a chance to win a signed copy of Luke’s debut middle-grade novel!

Or, if you just can’t wait for your copy (we definitely can’t!), click any of these links to purchase THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT now:

AmazonBooks A MillionBarnes and NobleIndieBound

DSC_0101

Jacque Alberta is a Senior Editor for Zonderkidz as well as Blink, the general market YA imprint of Zondervan—and while she loves reading and editing new books, her favorite part of the job by far is interaction with authors. Jacque joined Zondervan in 2004, and over the years has worked on a variety of kids’ products, from picture books to storybook Bibles and juvenile fiction, but YA is one of her true passions. A graduate of Calvin College (with an English major, naturally), she lives in Grand Rapids surrounded by piles of good books, as well as a very cute (and equally naughty) wire fox terrier named Tucker.

5 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch

Living Life Looney ~ Let’s Welcome THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT!

First order of business: To announce the winner of Penny Parker Klostermann’s THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT launch-week giveaway. Congratulations Rachel, you’re the lucky winner! To claim your fabulous reward, please e-mail Penny directly at penny.klostermann@gmail.com – and do it soon, or a dragon may swallow you. 

And now, drumroll please… We’re kicking off yet another fantastic EMU debut! Last Tuesday, Luke Reynolds’s debut middle-grade novel hit the shelves – and this week, we’re celebrating!

THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT is a remarkable book. Here’s a little about it, from Luke’s web site:
LOONEY EXPERIMENT coverAtticus Hobart couldn’t feel lower. He’s in love with a girl who doesn’t know he exists, he is the class bully’s personal punching bag, and to top it all off, his dad has just left the family. Into this drama steps Mr. Looney, a 77-year-old substitute English teacher with uncanny insight and a most unconventional approach to teaching. But Atticus soon discovers there’s more to Mr. Looney’s methods than he’d first thought. And as Atticus begins to unlock the truths within his own name, he finds that his hyper-imagination can help him forge his own voice, and maybe—just maybe—discover that the power to face his problems was inside him all along.”

Mr. Looney knows – and so does Luke Reynolds – that being true to yourself takes a special kind of courage. To honor that courage, we EMUs have looked back on our own lives for moments when we have lived life “Looney” and taken personal risks in order to be true to ourselves.

Janet Fox confesses that her biggest Looney leap…

VCFA“was when I decided to go back to school for my MFA in writing (from Vermont College of Fine Arts). Why looney? I had a teenage son, a husband who traveled all over the world, and no income to pay for those two years. My sweet friend Kathi Appelt said, “Do it. The money will follow.” Well, it did: my dad, who I thought had only enough left to live on, gave me a legacy gift that covered the whole thing. Bless you, Dad. Bless you, Kathi. And – leap of faith!”

Carole Gerber lived life Looney when…

OhioState“I left a secure teaching job to return to graduate school to earn a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio State. At that time, the job market for journalists was flat. Fortunately, I received a graduate assistantship that paid my tuition, and I earned a small stipend writing press releases for the OSU Department of Communications. Thanks to the contacts I made and the experience I racked up, I was also able to find a job in my field immediately after graduating.”

 

Jason Gallaher tells his tale of a recent risk…

Brony2“The biggest risk I took to be true to myself actually happened just a few short weeks ago at our annual EMLA retreat. In front of all my writing sisters and brothers, I finally came out of the closet as a Brony—a grown man who watches My Little Pony—by wearing an adult-sized My Little Pony onesie (it was of Rainbow Dash, for those of you familiar with the show). I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, and now I can express my Brony ways with pride! Neeeeeeigh!!!!”

Penny Parker Klostermann reflects on making her Looney dream a reality…

There Was an Old Dragon cover“I think taking the leap into getting published was my Living Life Looney. I dreamt of it for years but made excuses for not being true to my dream. I know that had a lot to do with fear. Probably the biggest step I took was sending my work to my now critique group when they were searching for a new member. That was scary but it made me feel like I was taking a serious step. After being accepted I knew I’d made a commitment to other writers and not just to myself. There was no looking back!”

 

Laurie Thompson knows that going for what you want can feel pretty Looney…

ThisIBM“When I was in college, one of my best friends got an internship at IBM. When I heard about what she would be doing there, I was so jealous. I hadn’t planned on going on an internship that semester, but it sounded like the perfect job. I called directory assistance to get the manager’s home phone number, and called him–at home on a Sunday–to tell him how much I wanted the job and why I’d be the perfect candidate and to beg him to consider hiring me, too. He refused to look at my resume or check my references or anything. He said that anyone who wanted the job that badly and had that much chutzpah was an easy hire, even though he could only think of a few months’ worth of work for me at the time. Shortly after I arrived, however, one of his full-time employees had to go on extended medical leave for most of the project, and I was there to step in to some degree and help keep things on schedule in her absence. I ended up staying a full year, and it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. It was also a valuable lesson in not being afraid to ask for what you want!”

Maria Gianferrari gets Looney when animal safety is at stake…

2787614567_3fbd79a560_b“Writing is probably the biggest risk I’ve ever taken—rejection is scary, so I’m proud that I continued to persevere. But I can think of an incident, perhaps not the biggest risk, but another that I was proud of myself for when I was in 5thgrade. My mother had to drop something off for a church event at a classmate’s house, and two of my male classmate friends were in the yard preparing to move from shooting targets with a BB gun, to shooting some birds and squirrels. I was a shy, non-confrontational kid, but as an animal lover, I was not going to let them harm anything while I was around, so I kept shooing them away. They were so mad at me, and kept yelling, but I didn’t care.”

Finally, Tamara Ellis Smith’s wise words on Living Life Looney…

MFA“Probably one of the biggest risks I’ve ever taken was deciding to go back to school.  I had two little kids at the time, so making the commitment to take two years to get my MFA in writing for children and young adults, was a big decision—for me and my whole family.  I had this deep intuition, though, that it was exactly what I needed to do, and I am forever grateful that I chose to listen to that.  (I am also forever and beyond grateful to Derek, my husband, for being so supportive of my choice too.) It felt like a big risk to spend all that time (and take out all those loans) on something I wanted so intensely.  The stakes were high, you know?  It also felt like a big risk, socially.  Until then, I had avoided situations that would place me with new people in new environments because my social anxiety was so great.  Deciding to go to grad school was one of the first times I recognized that my desire could be bigger than my fear.

The other thing that ended up being so cool, and magical—I had no idea how I would go away for two weeks every semester for the residencies. How would I find childcare so that Derek could continue to work? How would I afford that?  A few months before my first residency I re-connected with my best friend from my hometown. She was looking for a way, in essence, to restart her life. She wanted to come back to Vermont. She wanted to ground herself there. But she needed to figure out a way to get back.  She ended up coming to live with us, and she watched the kids during those two weeks over the two years I was in school.  It was amazing. She had a place in which to hunker down, my kids had the best “fake mom” ever, Derek got to know this dear friend of mine, and we got to reconnect.  She ended up living with us for over five years!

Identifying your deepest desires and taking those risks—you never know what magical things will come!”

Join the Looney ranks! Comment below and share a time when you were courageously Looney, and you’ll have a chance to win a signed copy of Luke Reynolds’s debut middle-grade novel: THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT.

Or, if you just can’t wait for your copy (we definitely can’t!), click any of these links to purchase THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT now:

Amazon, Books A Million, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound

6 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Dreams Come True, Faith, Launch

What would YOU feed a hungry dragon?

There Was an Old Dragon cover

It’s launch week here at Emu’s Debuts for Penny Parker Klostermann’s delightful picture book, There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight! Yesterday, Calista brought you an insightful interview with Dragon’s editor, Maria Modugno. And today, we’re bringing you… FOOD!

I asked my fellow Emus what they would offer a hungry dragon to convince it to eat that instead of them. And, let me tell you, if we Emus were all together in a mob, it would be a mighty fine feast indeed! (For added fun, try to spot the new Emus who will soon be joining the flock!)

For appetizers…

Garlic BreadLuke Reynolds would offer the dragon a full loaf of garlic bread, with extra butter melted and nuzzled within the rich, warm doughiness. The dragon would certainly have no choice but to remember how deeply satisfying melted butter is, and the soft dough would be so much more amazing than a crunchy, yucky human being!

Darcey Rosenblatt would try not only to save herself but further humankind, so she would offer a recipe for yummy roasted vegetables and engage her dragon friend in the cooking process. Never heard of a vegan dragon? Darcey is sure it happens!

I myself (Laurie Ann Thompson) would offer up some steaming crab macaroni & cheese. I just hope that old dragon knows how to share!

We have quite a few main courses for Dragon to choose from:

Sweet & Sour Pork Belly w/ pickled gingerOne of the most delicious things Megan Morrison has ever eaten is pork belly with crispy crackling skin. She was at Beppe in New York and asked the waiter for a recommendation. It sounded so gross, but oh. It was not. It was bacon on crack. She and her husband still talk about it with reverence. Surely a big slab of pork belly would be far tastier than Megan!

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman would serve the dragon the largest turkey she could find with a side of stuffing and an extra dose of tryptophan in hopes that he’d fall asleep.

Carole Gerber did her research first: Komodo dragons–the kind in zoos–eat deer, according to the fact sheet she read. The dragon first knocks the deer off its feet before killing and eating it. Carole would distract the dragon with a heap of deer toenails to confuse him as she made a quick getaway.

UntitledJason Gallaher would offer this hungry dragon a nice rare steak. Not only would it serve as a talking point about something they have in common (Jason likes his steak mooing), but the slab of meat would really save this guy a lot of trouble. He can still get his craving for meat satiated, but he doesn’t have to worry about chewing through all Jason’s clothes, his shoes, the change in his pockets, etc. Plus, deodorant. Jason applies deodorant regularly, and who in their right carnivorous mind would want to eat a creature that just lathered himself in Old Spice? Not Jason, that’s for sure.

Adam Shaughnessy would try to distract the dragon with guinea pig. Not because it’s particularly delicious (it’s fine), but because it might alleviate his guilt to share it. Adam had guinea pig while he was in Peru. It’s good to try new foods when traveling, but when he came back to the elementary school where he was working, a colleague shared Adam’s tasting adventures with a kindergarten teacher—without thinking about the fact that the teacher’s entire class was lined up behind her. They walked past Adam with looks of horror and an obvious terror that he was coming for Mr. Whiskers, their classroom pet, next.

Mmm... pulled pork with slawOne of Debbi Michiko Florence‘s favorite meals her husband makes is pulled pork–North Carolina style (vinegar-based). She would offer the dragon a giant plateful of pulled pork sandwiches piled with her husband’s cole slaw, because even a carnivorous dragon needs his greens!

Indian food is Christine Olson Hayes‘ first choice whenever they go out to eat. So many amazing flavors and textures! She’s pretty wimpy and usually orders things on the mild side, but she’s sure the dragon would appreciate a nice Indian curry, super extra hot and spicy!

And, of course, we mustn’t forget dessert!

StroopwafelMylisa Larsen would offer up stroopwafels! They’re these lovely thin waffle cookies sandwiching a layer of caramel. Best eaten warm. When her husband travels to the Netherlands, their children greet his return not with “hello” or “so glad you’re back” but with “Did you bring stroopwafels?” For Mylisa’s sake, she’d be hoping the dragon felt the same enthusiasm.

To make a hasty escape, Maria Gianferrari would douse the dragon with honey so he’d be in sticky straits. Or if he were in a friendlier mood, she’d serve him some goat cheese since it tastes so delicious when baked.

Vanilla Milkshake @ Lori's DinerHayley Barrett imagines something simple and refreshing… Something to cool a scorched palate…. Something to tame the fire in the belly…. She’s got it! A double-thick vanilla milkshake! Slurp!

If there was a dragon alert, Donna Janell Bowman would make a marshmallow vest with giant chocolate buttons and dragon fruit all over it, then she would trick the meanest bully into thinking it had invisibility powers. When the bully snatched it from her and put it on, she would say, “don’t you dare touch my super powers milkshake!” and, “Hey, back off from that graham cracker wand. Or else!”  Of course the bully would steal it, without realizing that she had lured him into the dragon’s lair. Gulp! And she wouldn’t feel guilty at all because mean bullies are not “nice humans.” Two problems solved.

Bubblegum with bubbleIf Elly Swartz were in danger of being eaten by a dragon, she would offer the dragon a tub of Bazooka bubble gum to ensure her safety. You see, not only would Sir Dragon find Bazooka gum sugary and delicious, but he’d also surely want to learn how to blow a bubble. And Elly would need all of her body parts to teach him. So, she would, of course, offer to teach him how to blow a bubble, saving herself and all her body parts in the process!

S'Mores!Janet Fox knows just what she’d give our hungry dragon: S’Mores! Sweet and tasty and so easy for a dragon to cook in an instant. Plus…chocolate. Did you hear her, Dragon? Chocolate!

Rebecca Van Slyke thinks dragons would prefer ice cream to a tough teacher like her! (Probably chocolate ice cream, but maybe a nice raspberry ripple.) Besides, if he DOES eat the ice cream, it would put out his “internal combustion” and she could get away!

Peanut ButterTamara Smith‘s great idea is peanut butter, of course! Have you seen dogs eating peanut butter? Their jaws get glued together and they make that slurpy, smacking sound as they try–for just enough time for, say, a person to get away–to open their mouths. Tam would definitely give the dragon peanut butter. Plus, it’s the most perfect food on the planet!

For her part, Penny is glad her dragon didn’t encounter the Emus Debuts before he encountered the kingdom… His story would be one of frustration instead of gluttony! And the meter would be all screwed up…

There was an old dragon who swallowed a stroopwafel.
I don’t know why he swallowed the stroopwafel.
It isn’t lawful!

There was an old dragon who swallowed raspberry ripple ice cream.
I don’t know why he swallowed the raspberry ripple ice cream.
It seems extreme!

(“See what I mean? There’s no need to go on!” –Penny) 😉

What's for lunchSo, how about YOU: What would you offer a hungry dragon to entice him to eat it instead of you?

Comment on any post this week for a chance to win your very own SIGNED copy of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight!

Or buy a copy right away. You can find one at YOUR local indie bookstore here: Indiebound

Or, you can order online through Barnes and NobleAmazonBooks-A-Million, or Powell’s.

For personalized signed copies of There Was an Old Dragon, you can order fromTexas Star Trading Co. and give your dedication details in the Gift Message box. You can also contact them by email at texasstartradingco@sbcglobal.net or call  (325) 672-9696.

11 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations

Unexpected Connections

Tamara Smith’s Another Kind of Hurricane is the story of two kids, Henry and Zavion, separated by geography, who connect in an unexpected way. So to welcome this book into the world, we’re sharing our stories of unexpected connections today.

Another Kind of Hurricane cover

Penny Parker Klostermann

It was Fall 2010. I was dreaming about getting a picture book published. I knew it would be challenging, but I also knew I needed to get with it if I was serious. We were headed to my in-laws for Thanksgiving. My mother-in-law called us while we were driving. There was a little chit-chat about the traffic, then this:

My mother-in-law: “Tell Penny that there’s going to be a guy joining our Thanksgiving get-together that writes children’s’ books.”
Me: “What’s his name?”
My mother-in-law: “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Bev (my husband’s sister).”

All this plus inspiration

All this plus inspiration

It turns out it was Peter Brown! Yep! I couldn’t believe I was sitting across from someone who was doing what I wanted to do. (Well, the writing part. I’m NO illustrator.) I shyly said that I had written a few stories. He responded politely and appropriately, but I’m sure he was thinking, “How many times have I heard this??? Everybody wants to write a children’s book!” I can’t say I was brave enough to take the conversation further. I just listened as he told some others at the table about his writing. But, meeting him was the connection I needed to move forward in pursuit of publication.

Maria Gianferrari

I have the perfect connection for Tam’s launch—my connection with Tam! As I’m writing this, we have not yet met in person, but we’ll be meeting at my own book launch. Another planned meeting at her parents’ farm was foiled by heavy rain, luckily not a hurricane, and yet it feels like we have some kind of otherly bond, one in which I feel like I’ve somehow known her for a long time, connected by common threads, strange as it may sound. Who knows—maybe we were sisters in a past life, and now we’re Emu-sisters. I look forward to the day when we can hang out together!

tamara_ellis_smith_bio

Tamara Ellis Smith. And we’re happy to report that Tam and Maria have finally met in person at Maria’s book launch party last week.

Carole Gerber

When my daughter Jess was a college student at Elon University in North Carolina she drove back to our home in Ohio during holidays and summer break. She always stopped for gas and a snack in Beckley, West Virginia, which had a large tourist stop with multiple pumps, restrooms, and fast food outlets. While waiting in line for an ice cream, she saw old family friends we’d lost touch with – except for annual Christmas cards –  when they moved out-of-state. Later that year, while waiting to run a half-marathon in Washington, D.C., she saw them and two of their children who were also participating. Since then, my husband and I have also re-connected with our old friends and visit back and forth a couple of times a year.

I think I know that person

I think I know that person

Megan Morrison

I’ve been really lucky on the Internet. Through the power of shared interest in books, I’ve connected with people who have turned out to be my best friends, my writing colleagues – and even my husband. That’s got to be the best unexpected connection I’ve made. I met him because he posted something funny and snarky on a Harry Potter message board. It was a sentiment I wanted to express, but as a moderator I was trying to set a good example. Privately, I messaged him to tell him I appreciated his comment – and he messaged back some very complimentary things about my writing (fan fiction, at the time). His own writing was excellent. The man knew how to spell and punctuate. What’s more, it turned out that we lived in neighboring boroughs of New York City: me in Manhattan, him in Brooklyn. We got together that very weekend, and when we parted at the subway entrance later that evening, I had a very, very funny feeling. My gut was not wrong. On July 30th of this year, we will have been together for ten years.

I've got a good feeling about this

I’ve got a good feeling about this

What about you?

Share your unexpected connections below or comment on any of the posts this week to be entered to win a signed copy of Another Kind of Hurricane.

Purchase a copy of Tamara’s book through Indiebound, Powell’sBarnes & Noble, or Amazon.

10 Comments

Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations