Category Archives: Book Launch

Who, Who Made Whobert?

I can’t believe this day has finally arrived! Whobert is hatching from his little egg and becoming a fully fledged book bird! It’s so unreal, and I still can’t quite believe that this book is actually getting published, nearly two and a half years after the book was acquired. During that time, I learned that this book is so much more than just the manuscript I wrote back in 2014. So to celebrate the hatching of Whobert into bookstores, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge who, who helped create Whobert and make his hatching possible.

Jess Pauwels! You are such an amazing illustrator, and you make Whobert and his pals pop off the page. Your facial expressions! I can feel Whobert’s suspicion ooze off the page. Thank you for making Whobert come alive.

Tricia Lawrence! You are the best agent a guy could ever ask for. You work for me tirelessly, and Whobert wouldn’t be in the hands of readers if it weren’t for your hands guiding me along this thrilling writing rollercoaster.

Annie Nybo! That first critique you gave of Whobert really spurred me on to keep creating. I can feel your enthusiasm for Whobert through every email and text, and I feel so lucky to have worked with you.

Bethany Hegedus! The Writing Barn feels like home. That ball that started rolling towards a real writing career was given that initial push because of you and the beautiful space of inspiration and creativity that you’ve created.

My entire family! You’ve supported me since birth, and have never once doubted me, even at the times I doubted myself. Thanks for cheering me on during the good news, and for boosting me up during the bad. I love you all!

Jerry! Words cannot express how much I love you. I am so thankful everyday to have you rooting for me and supporting me at every turn. I live a real life fairy tale, and that’s all because of you.

And lastly, to all my fellow Emus! Whobert may be hatching today, but he wouldn’t be able to take flight if not for your constant efforts, not only letting people know about his publication, but also being my cheerleaders and offering advice as I got closer and closer to this book birthday.

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Jason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases TODAY, from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. He loves dinosaurs, unicorns, and days when the goofy characters that live in his mind get to actually make their way into the real world. Jason is a tried and true Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)

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Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations, Happiness

Sweet Treats to Celebrate JASMINE TOGUCHI—Plus A Giveaway!

To celebrate the arrival of the first two volumes of Debbi Michiko Florence’s JASMINE TOGUCHI chapter book series, I asked the EMUs to tell me about their earliest kitchen experiences. From batter-covered beaters to Easy Bake ovens, it was a sweet trip down memory lane.

Sarvinder Naberhaus recalls, “I did learn to bake as a child, motivated by (and still motivated by) the objective —  to eat the sweet treats! Cooking was a chore but baking was fun! And who wouldn’t want to use Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook for Boys and Girls with all their fun presentations of food? 

Although I’m torn between sharing our Betty Crocker recipe for Carrot Cake and the cookie dough recipe from childhood, I think I’ll stick with my mentor, Betty.

BETTY CROCKER’S (AND SARVINDER’S) CARROT CAKE

Grease and flour a 9×13 cake pan. Preheat oven to 350. 

Ingredients:
4 eggs, beaten
2 c flour
2 c sugar
1 1/4 Crisco oil or a bit less
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 c chopped nuts, if desired
2 c grated raw carrots

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, & salt to combine. In a medium bowl, blend together sugar and oil, then add beaten eggs. Stir dry and wet mixtures together gently. Fold in nuts and carrots last.
Bake 350 for 1/2 hour or so until the middle bounces to touch. When cool, adorn with:

Frosting:
1 stick butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
Beat all ingredients together thoroughly until whitish and fluffy. Frost cake and serve.

“I started learning how to bake at my mom’s elbow when I was four,” recalls recent EMU Fledgling Andrea Y. Wang. Mom was a nurse-midwife and worked a lot, so baking was my special time with her. My favorite thing to bake was chocolate chip cookies, because…CHOCOLATE, but I also loved making banana bread. It was so easy and mashing up the bananas was really fun—and way easier than pounding mochi rice! I still have the Betty Crocker cookbook that we used when I was little, and you can see all the stains on the banana bread page.
I even wrote the smaller amount of milk needed (only 3/4 cup) right on the recipe, because the mashed bananas added the extra liquid. Now that my mom is gone, using her cookbook and her mixing bowls keeps her close to me.

Katie Slivensky enjoyed annual baking bonanzas as a kid. “My childhood baking was cookie-related. Classic chocolate chip cookies throughout the year, or ALL THE COOKIES
at Christmas-time. My mom would have my sister and I help out with the mixing and measuring (and in the case of Christmas—decorating!) I mostly liked to help because that meant I’d get to eat the extra batter off the beaters. I also took decorating the frosted cookies for the holidays VERY seriously.

Here’s my mom’s Frosted Cookie recipe:

KATIE’S MOM’S CREAM CHEESE COOKIES

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix together:

1 cup shortening
3 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar

Then add:
1 beaten egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour

Roll dough out will lots of additional flour. Dip cookie cutters into flour before cutting so dough won’t stick.
Bake cookies 9-12 minutes or until edges start to get light brown.

Cool completely before decorating with:

Frosting (3 batches of frosting to 2 batches of cookies)
1 1/2 confectioners sugar
2 TBL butter (margarine) softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 TBL warm water

Blend ingredients until smooth. Divide frosting into smaller glass bowls and use food coloring to tint. Have fun! After decorating, allow cookies to rest overnight so frosting sets up.

Jason Gallaher says, “My mom is a marvelous baker, and I remember sitting with her in the kitchen while she made a whole slew of goodies. Turtle brownies, chocolate chip banana bread, and oatmeal butterscotch cookies were my absolute fave. I wish I had a recipe to share with you, but I can’t recall any of the *actual* steps in how to make these treats, because the only steps I ever participated in were Dipping Fingers Inside the Batter, and Licking Serving Spoons Clean. But those are steps that I highly recommend in any recipe!”

POM BROKAW THINKS JASON IS SUPER SWEET! >>>>>>>>>>>

Judging from this adorable picture, Terry Pierce was a baking prodigy. Her fondest early childhood memory was baking cupcakes with her mom. “I loved to help pour, mix and my favorite part, licking the leftover batter. My brother and I had to alternate so that one of us got the bowl and the other got the beaters. When I was around five, I got my first Easy Bake oven. I found it fascinating that a light bulb could bake those small cakes! I loved the coveted chocolate cake mix. The vanilla tasted like cardboard!

I still love to bake. In fact, just this morning, I made a chocolate- cream-filled-ganache birthday cake for my family. Yum!

Christina Uss remembers, “Early baking experiences were all about my mom and me and cookies. Her Nestlé Toll House chocolate chip cookies were, in my opinion, far superior to all others. My best friend Karen and I started asking to cook them on our own when we were eleven, and to make sure we got the perfect results, we followed everything my mom did exactly, down to using the same mixing bowls and measuring spoons. It worked! Why? I figured my mom passed on some sort of cooking magic to us. It took meeting my husband who loves to bake but uses his grandma’s old Sunbeam electric mixer for every recipe to realize the real secret to my mom’s awesome cookies wasn’t specific mixing bowls, measuring spoons, or magic, but creaming the butter and sugar by hand with a wooden spoon. It’s hard work (especially if you forget to leave the butter out to soften until you start mixing everything else, which I always did), but gives the cookies this satisfyingly chewy texture that can’t be beat. So here’s my recipe – with two caveats.

 

My thanks to the EMUs for these scrumptious stories. I think I’ll go bake some cookies now and tuck in with my copy of JASMINE TOGUCHI.


I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. It will be illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Dreams Come True, Families, Happiness, Launch, middle grade, Middle Grade, series, Uncategorized

Interview with JASMINE TOGUCHI editor, Grace Kendall!

The launch for Debbi Michiko Florence’s JASMINE TOGUCHI series continues with an interview with Debbi’s editor, Grace Kendall of Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers. Read below to get the inside scoop on all things Jasmine!

JG: What initially drew you to Debbi’s writing and JASMINE TOGUCHI?

GK: Oh! What a tough question. I think, aside from the writing itself–which is sweet and fun and pitch-perfect for this age–I was in awe of how elegantly Debbi handled big issues. In MOCHI QUEEN, Jasmine is simply trying to have a new experience before her older sister. It’s also about questioning traditional gender roles in a Japanese-American family. But the story is funny and energetic and packed full of silly sister drama. Jasmine has a ton of gumption, just like Debbi. That’s why I couldn’t put the manuscript down!

How have Jasmine, her adventures, and her family changed through the editorial process? Did JASMINE read much differently in the original submission from what we read now?

No, I think the Jasmine of Draft 1 is the Jasmine you see in the final books here. But when we decided to sign up four titles, it became clear that Jasmine’s voice needed a bit more volume to help sustain a whole series. So we worked on pulling out the brightest details in her personality. Debbi knows this character so well, and I love this little girl more with every book. It’s been so fun to see her develop over four stories!

One of my personal favorite characteristics of Jasmine’s is her insistence that she can do anything she sets her mind to, even if it’s labeled a “boy” activity. What is your favorite personality trait of Jasmine’s?

I can’t pick one, so I’ll give you three:

Artistic trait: Jasmine loves to make collages from her mother’s old magazines. I did the same thing when I was a kid.

Kinetic trait: Hopping. When Jazz (as I fondly call her) is anxious or excited, she hops from one leg to the other. It’s the perfect solution to too many nerves. And funny in a serious scene!

Emotional trait: I adore her sisterhood with Sophie. I’m a lot like Sophie, and my younger sister is a lot like Jasmine. I think it’ll be helpful for young readers to see these two siblings get through their growing pains–and look for any similarities in their own relationships.

Elizabet Vukovic’s illustrations are so dynamic and really showcase Jasmine’s personality. How did you find and decide on Elizabet Vukovic as the illustrator for these books?

It was a journey! We looked at A LOT of portfolios. But the second I saw Elizabet’s drawing of a little girl with big glasses playing dress-up in a glowing red gown, I knew we had our artist. I love Elizabet’s use of ink, the weight of her lines, and the phenomenal sense for color wash. We were SO lucky she was free. Her enthusiasm for the texts has brought a whole other layer of narrative to these books.

We get four whole JASMINE books, the first two releasing on July 11th! What adventures are in store for Jasmine as the series progresses?

Every time Debbi sends in a new manuscript, I’m convinced it’s my favorite Jasmine book yet. So, get ready for even more awesome adventures! In Book 3, Jasmine learns how to play the taiko drum for the school talent show. But there’s a big difference between being the best and trying your best. And a new kid in school will challenge Jasmine’s patience to hilarious and heartfelt effect.

In Book 4, Jasmine’s grandmother sends her and Sophie daruma dolls to wish on. So, Jasmine decides to wish for a pet: a flamingo! But where will it live, and how will Jasmine feed it? Can she even convince her parents to keep her pet flamingo? Jasmine gets a big surprise when a different wish is fulfilled!

Thank you so much for your time, Grace! We can’t wait to get our hands on more Jasmine adventures!

You can enter to win a copy of MOCHI QUEEN and SUPER SLEUTH! One entry per one comment per post this launch week for a maximum total of five entries. Enter by midnight EST, Sunday July 16. The winner will be drawn at random. Must have U.S. mailing address. Good luck!

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Filed under Book Launch, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Editing and Revising

Pinch Me

My new puppy, Kiku, is joining in on the celebration!

Today, my debut chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi launches with the first two books: Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth. This is the culmination of over 15 years of writing, learning, growing, revising, querying, submitting, and collecting rejections. Having my chapter books published is a dream come true.

I’ve talked about my journey on this blog and elsewhere so I won’t rehash it except to say, for Jasmine, it’s been seven years from the spark of an idea to book release. And it’s been a little over two years since my wonderful editor, Grace Kendall, made the offer to publish Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen, not as a stand-alone, but as a series. It’s been a truly wonderful experience working with my editor Grace, my awesome agent Tricia Lawrence, talented illustrator Elizabet Vukovic, and the FSG team. I feel so fortunate.

I’ve revised, copyedited, and proofread (with the help of the sharp eyes of professional copyeditors and proofreaders). I’ve reviewed and loved the art. Jasmine Toguchi is part of a Macmillan bookseller campaign called “Got Character?” that features six series. Jasmine is on a poster! The reviews (all good, thankfully) are in. Mochi Queen is a Junior Library Guild fall selection and a pick for Amazon’s Summer Book Club – New Favorite Series for Kids. I’ve been interviewed by some awesome bloggers. I’ve stumbled upon Twitter conversations and Instagram posts about Jasmine. And I’ve held the actual books in my hands. I’m giddy!

So when does it feel real? This still feels like a dream. A very wonderful dream but, still, a dream. I can’t believe that a book I wrote with characters I conceived is really going to find its way into the hands of readers. Perhaps that is when it will feel real – when a child reads my books.

Pre-launch, so much energy and focus is on getting the words and the art just right, on waiting for the reviews to come in, on planning events, on promotion and marketing. All of this is, of course, relevant and important and fun. But during all that, sometimes it’s easy to forget why I wrote the story in the first place, for whom I wrote the story – for a child. When I started my writing career over 15 years ago, I didn’t know about Kirkus or School Library Journal, or the effect of sales numbers or earning out, or how important it was to get parents and educators on board. All I thought about was the child who might pick up my book, read the story, connect to the character, and fall in love. And today, I’m remembering that. I can’t wait for readers to meet Jasmine and, I hope, fall in love with her.

Art copyright Elizabet Vukovic

Maybe that’s when it will feel real. When a child reader says, “I read and loved your book.” That is the review I’m holding my breath for.

In the meantime, I am celebrating this dream come true. I’m pinching myself to make sure this is really happening. I’m grateful to everyone who has supported me along this journey, who has believed in me, who has talked up my books, and who has helped make Jasmine and her stories come alive. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And extra special thanks to my awesome agent Tricia Lawrence, to my amazing editor Grace Kendall, and to my husband B0b and daughter Caitlin!

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Enter to win Mochi Queen and Super Sleuth! One entry per one comment per post this launch week for a maximum total of five entries. Enter by midnight EST, Sunday July 16. The winner will be drawn at random. Must have U.S. mailing address. Good luck!

 

 

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Launch, Thankfulness

Show Yourself in Your Work: An Illustrator’s Story

It’s launch week! It’s launch week! Hold onto your summer floppy hats, we have a book…well, actually two to launch into the world this week. A little bit from the publisher about our first book baby!

Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen

by Debbi Michiko Florence (illus. by Elizabet Vukovic)

Eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi is a flamingo fan, tree climber, and top-notch mess-maker!

She’s also tired of her big sister, Sophie, always getting to do things first. For once, Jasmine wishes SHE could do something before Sophie—something special, something different. The New Year approaches, and as the Toguchi family gathers in Los Angeles to celebrate, Jasmine is jealous that her sister gets to help roll mochi balls by hand with the women. Her mom says that Jasmine is still too young to join in, so she hatches a plan to help the men pound the mochi rice instead. Surely her sister has never done THAT before.

But pounding mochi is traditionally reserved for boys. And the mochi hammer is heavier than it looks. Can Jasmine build her case and her mochi-making muscles in time for New Year’s Day?

Ages 6 – 9

Available July 11, 2017 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR)

And even better? This is the first book in a series. The second book is also available this week! At the end of this post, you can enter to wind a copy!

To kick off a week of Jasmine Toguchi celebrations, I sat down with illustrator Elizabet Vukovic. Ok, technically, she was in the Netherlands and I was in Maine… but laughing all the way through our video chat, it was as if we were sitting at the same table. Elizabet is not only talented and brilliant, but she’s bubbly, fun, spunky, and there are some big surprises in her journey.  You are going to love her as much as I do. Let’s get to it.

evukovic_02

Elizabet knows exactly what it’s like to have a big sister who gets everything first! Reading the pages of Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen, Elizabet related to Jasmine immediately. She laughed heartily as we talked about her own childhood and the misery of hand-me downs.

Growing up in the Netherlands, Elizabet lived around the corner from a bicycle store. Every summer, she looked through the shop window at the new bikes. So shiny! So new! And every summer, she watched her older sister pick out a new bike… while Elizabet got her sister’s old bike to ride. (Eventually Elizabet would get a new bike, but not until high school!)

Elizabet wore her sister’s hand-me-down clothes and played with hand-me-down toys––until one day Elizabet had enough. It happened in the toy store. The girls had begged their father to walk into the toy store, promising only to look at the toys. Finally, their father agreed. The three of them walked into the store and that’s when Elizabet saw it: a microphone. Not just any microphone, but one that echoed. Elizabet was always singing and this microphone would be the perfect accessory. She had to have it.

She asked her dad to buy it. He said no.

So Elizabet refused to leave the store––without that microphone. That’s when her father and big sister left her there and went home.

But Elizabet did not budge.

Finally, her father returned to the store. And he bought Elizabet that microphone!

As we talked about this story, Elizabet’s eyes sparkled and her grin grew wide. Tapping into these experiences, brought Jasmine to life for Elizabet. She says the illustration on page 37 of the book put in a fine point on what both girls dealt with. (And no sneak previews. The only way to see this emotional scene is to buy the book or request it at the library or win it in our book give away! Also, it’s totally worth it.) But, it’s that illustration in particular that captured both Elizabet’s experience and Jasmine’s: complete frustration and irritation. The contrast of Jasmine’s level of anger juxtaposed to the oblivious prancing around of her older sister really nails the dynamic.

Elizabet says that level of personal connection is critical to her work. You can learn anatomy, she explains, but you have to put yourself in those characters. “Show yourself in your work,” Elizabet said.

But Elizabet’s path to accomplishing that, to creating the space where that’s even possible is interesting. She is the child of immigrants from Croatia. Her parents are hard workers and always expected that of their kids. Because they had to overcome so much and accomplish so much to establish their new lives in the Netherlands, they are also very practical and pragmatic.

Elizabet was interested in drawing as a very small child. Her kindergarten teacher used to say to her parents, “You have a real Picasso on your hands.” Even in high school, a teacher mentioned that Elizabet should go into drawing.

But as a profession? That was hard for Elizabet’s parents to accept or encourage. After all, they wanted Elizabet to have a paying job, security. .. all of the things they had immigrated to the Netherlands to build.

But as effervescent and charming as Elizabet is, she also has steely determination and an unyielding drive to prove herself.

So, what could she do in that situation? First, Elizabet got a degree in optometry. That’s right, optometry. She worked full time in the field to save money for art school. She worked during the day and studied illustration at night through online coursework until she graduated from the San Francisco Art Academy.

Then, she rode her bike 45 minutes to work every day, put in her hours, rode her bike home––which was another 45 minutes, climbed into her studio chair and began working on her illustration portfolio. Every night.

But Elizabet swears that something magical happened in those late hours. It was like her illustration time was protected. Because she had a full time job, she could really give herself permission to go for it at night. Permission to take risks, to enjoy her passion. Her artwork was not burdened with the responsibility of having to make money.

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Once her portfolio was ready, Elizabet prepared herself mentally for the process. She was ready for the rejections, the long, hard, and difficult path to an agent and publication.

She started by picking her top three agencies. Then one morning, she submitted her work by e-mail. She had an offer by that afternoon. She ran around her room screaming. Elizabet doesn’t remember much of her call with her agent Justin Rucker, just that he said he loved her work. “I was so high on emotion and he talked a lot and I kept thinking is this real? Oh my God!” she remembers.

And Elizabet brings all of that to these illustrations. You’ll see it immediately, the joy and spunk…. the struggle and conflict. They flow out of her pen onto the page. These masterful illustrations are a treasure for readers and an invitation to all of us to show ourselves in our work.

Enjoy!

Anna Crowley Redding

P.S. Elizabet and her older sister are close friends today !

P.P.S. Keep reading, there’s a book give away at the bottom of this post!

Also available this week: Book 2 in this delicious, unforgettable series:

Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth (Book 2)

by Debbi Michiko Florence (illus. by Elizabet Vukovic)

It’s a big weekend for Jasmine Toguchi! She’s excited to celebrate Girl’s Day―a Japanese holiday honoring women and girls―with her sister, mother, and best friend, Linnie. When Linnie comes over to plan for the Girl’s Day celebration, Jasmine’s neighbor lets them play dress up in her garage. But the garage is dark, which is kind of scary. And Linnie decides to go home early, which is kind of weird. And Jasmine’s big sister, Sophie, doesn’t seem to want to join in the Girl’s Day fun this year, which is kind of confusing. WHAT is going on?

As her big weekend plans start to unravel, Jasmine must use her sleuthing skills to spot the clues around her. Then maybe, just maybe, she can fix things and make sure the Girl’s Day celebration happens!

Ages 6 – 9

Available July 11, 2017 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR)

Enter to win MOCHI QUEEN and SUPER SLEUTH! One entry per one comment per post this launch week for a maximum total of five entries. The winner will be drawn at random. Must have U.S. mailing address. Enter by midnight EST Sunday July 16th. Good luck!

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Character Development, Dreams Come True, Families, Illustrating, Illustrators, Inspiration, Interviews, process, Uncategorized

Going Out with a Bang (of Fireworks)!

It’s the last day of our celebration of the release of Sarvinder Naberhaus’s BLUE SKY WHITE STARS, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Sarvinder’s book celebrates the beauty of America, so to wrap up the launch of Sarvinder’s debut, we thought we’d go out with a bang and talk about our favorite Fourth of July memories!

Debbi Michiko Florence: When we lived in Upstate NY and my daughter was younger, Bob, Caitlin and I would go to Bob’s brother’s house and then both families would go to the park in downtown Saratoga. We’d set up blankets, check out the booths and play cards and board games until it got dark. Then the fireworks show would start – and it was spectacular, but the best part was spending it with family. I miss those days! Our kids are all grown up and while we sometimes still get together with Bob’s brother and sister-in-law, I miss having the kids around.

Hayley Barrett: I love a parade and my neighboring town, Wakefield, has the best 4th of July parade in Massachusetts. A few years ago, I had the joy of seeing Rex Trailer — a local television personality from my childhood — ride by on a SPECTACULAR and high-spirited palomino horse. He would have been about 82 years old at the time and rode like the true-blue cowboy he was. Boom, Boom, Boomtown Forever!

Katie Slivensky: Growing up in my neighborhood, we would all decorate our bikes in red, white, and blue and have a giant bike parade to our local pond. There, we would swim and bbq and celebrate with bomb pops and all our neighbors! It was one of my favorite days of the year.

Jason Gallaher: There is absolutely nothing like going out to Coeur d’Alene Lake in Northern Idaho on the Fourth of July. I have so many memories of hopping in a boat, water skiing all day, then bobbing along just after sunset and watching fireworks blast over the lake. It’s beautiful, and I’m positive it’s the inspiration behind Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

Sarvinder Naberhaus: My favorite 4th of July memories happened AFTER it was all over. The fair used to come to town, and set up at the park just down the hill. I could see it from the tops of my climbing tree. They had a Ferris wheel, tilt-a-whirl, swings (my favorite because I was flying). My neighbor girl and I would go down after it was all over. What a mess! But as the hazy lazy days of summer dragged on, it was hard to find an adventure. So we’d go down and sift through the plethora for “treasure.”

You can see fireworks and so much more of America’s landscape and history in Sarvinder’s BLUE SKY WHITE STARS, out now! Grab a copy for yourself from IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite bookseller!

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Bike photo from Bike Provo; Ferris wheel photo from Northforker/Katharine Schroeder

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Our Favorite America!!

The launch for Sarvinder Naberhaus’s BLUE SKY, WHITE STARS continues! To keep the celebration going, we talk about our favorite cities, states and national landmarks in the USA!

Terry Pierce: City – It’s a tie between Boston, MA, and Portland, OR. I love the “intimacy” of both these large cities and their “walkability” (a word I just made up to mean “ease of walking.”). Portland is the essence of the Pacific Northwest with its small coffee houses, frequent bookstores and gorgeous distant mountain scenery. Boston’s incredibly rich history, amazing food (Hello, North End!) and sight-seeing points of interest make it a favorite big city to visit (yes, I visited Robert McCloskey’s mother duck and ducklings statue—what children’s writer wouldn’t?).

Natural landmarks – No doubt, Yosemite National Park. There is nothing like it with its massive granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, abundant wildlife and the lazy Merced River meandering down the middle of the valley floor. When I drive through the Wawona tunnel and see the full view of the valley, it still takes my breath away. It’s truly spectacular and makes me appreciate the amazing natural forces of our planet. I mean, to think that a glacier carved away the solid granite and sculptured the valley is mind-blowing.

Debbi Michiko Florence: Oh it’s hard to pick just one place, so can I pick a few? While there are many landmarks, states, and cities in the U.S. that I love and enjoy returning to, because I’ve moved so often in my adult life, my favorite places are those that take me to be with family.

San Francisco – City of my birth – I love the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, the foggy mornings, and all my precious memories created there.

Huntington Beach, CA, and Portland, OR – My parents live in Huntington Beach and visiting them means down time, relaxation, walks to the beach and on the pier, sunshine and ocean. My sister and her family, and my stepson, live in Portland and there’s nothing like hanging out with family while visiting a vibrant city with great food and sights.

Christina Uss: I will narrow down my list of eight million to two.

Philadelphia. I went to college here and spent four amazing years soaking in the history and culture of Philly. I’d finish classes for the day and then have to decide – did I want to go for a run up the steps of the Art Museum with the theme song to Rocky playing in my head, or go visit the Liberty Bell, or peruse an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, or stroll down Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential street in the U.S.? Or just go eat a cheesesteak or a butter-soaked Amish pretzel? Or do ALL of them? I adored how day-to-day life of people of so many diverse backgrounds was swirling around these historic sites every day, all hours of the day. Philly feels to me like a place where every layer of American history from colonial times to an hour ago is alive.

My heart swells with patriotic pride when I visit any part of our National Parks system, often called America’s Best Idea. I particularly love the ones out west with historic, epic National Parks lodges built in the early 1900s, like Many Glacier in Montana’s Glacier Park, Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone Park, El Tovar at the Grand Canyon. I was so grateful in my former life as a bicycling adventure tour guide to get to stay in these lodges; they struck me as the most brilliant combination of human architectural vision and craftsmanship with spectacular natural settings.

Katie Slivensky: Tough one! I love Glacier Bay National Park. It’s just so gorgeous and eerie and serene and wild. Also, Mackinac Island. Lots of horses. No cars. Beautiful sights. And FUDGE.

Anna Crowley Redding: Acadia, specifically Night Sky Fest, a week in the park with astronomers looking at planets, galaxies, and constellations!

Carole GerberCharleston, SC. Gorgeous city with wonderful restaurants, and mannerly, friendly people with beautiful southern accents. Did I mention there are lots of beaches nearby?

Hayley Barrett: I’m a true-blue Boston girl. I love that dirty water!

Jason Gallaher: Hands down, without a doubt, my favorite place in America and the whole wide world is Malibu, CA. I love strolling down the pier, I love having deep conversations with local dolphins by cackling back at them, I love recreating scenes from The Craft at Leo Carrillo Beach, and it definitely doesn’t hurt that Miley Cyrus just came out with  a song named after the city.

Sarvinder Naberhaus: I love the Grand Canyon and national parks!

You can see even more beautiful pictures and descriptions of America in Sarvinder Naberhaus’s BLUE SKY, WHITE STARS! You can find out more about the book here, and you can order a copy from IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite bookseller!

 

 

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Happy Book Launch, Sarvinder!!!

This week we’re celebrating the birth of a nation. Well, not exactly, but close. Sarvinder Naberhaus’s stunning picture book, BLUE SKY, WHITE STARS, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, is a beautiful tribute to America and its diversity. What perfect timing for the release of this tribute to America and her flag, folded between two of our country’s most celebrated patriotic holidays, Memorial Day and Independence Day!

We all know that a great party (launch or otherwise) must have music! So, what better way to begin our celebration than with songs—specifically, patriotic songs—songs we learned in elementary school that still sing in our hearts and lift our spirits when we lend our voices to our country and her flag. So, to kick off the release of BLUE SKY, WHITE STARS, I asked the EMUs here in our nest to talk a little about their favorite patriotic song.

Christina Uss: My favorite patriotic song is “America the Beautiful.” When I rode my bike across our great country, I was inspired to spontaneously burst out singing it over and over and over again. There are many things to love about the U.S. of A., but this song is what bubbles up for me when I am knocked silly by the scenic beauty that is EVERYWHERE around us. I feel lucky as all get-out to be able to live and travel freely here whenever I see the fruited plain of Illinois, the amber waves of grain of Kansas, the spacious skies of Montana, the purple mountains majesty of Colorado, the alien’s play-doh playground of Utah, the sweep of the Pacific Coast in California, the bike paths of Virginia, the swimming holes of Missouri…I’ve gotta stop now or I’ll never get any other writing done, there’s JUST SO MUCH!

Jason Gallaher: It might not be considered your traditional patriotic song, but I really love Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America.” I think that song is timeless and expertly captures the anxiety teens/early-twenty-somethings feel about becoming a suburban stereotype. The kids just want to get lost in the music-go-round, dang it, and not get stuck in that suburbia sprawling everywhere!

Terry Pierce:   My favorite song about America is “This Land is Your Land” (composed by Woody Guthrie in 1940—betcha didn’t know that?). As a child, my family moved quite a bit and always explored the areas where we had traveled and lived. When I learned this song in the third grade, I loved it because I connected to many of the places in the lyrics: California, New York, forests, the Gulf, deserts and valleys. It gives tribute to the many and varied places in our country, with the message that this extraordinary place we live belongs to all of us. This is something I strongly believe, that it’s our duty as citizens to protect and cherish our land.

Hayley Barrett: I’ve always loved “My Country,’Tis of Thee.” As a child, I didn’t realize that the song was likely related to a landmark in my town. Author Samuel Francis Smith is said to have been inspired by the bell and steeple of Old South Church to write these lyrics, “I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills, my heart with rapture thrills, like that above.”

Sarvinder Naberhaus: I have so many songs that I love. When teaching 4th grade social studies, my kids learned “50 Nifty United States.”  I love that one! “This Land is Your Land” is also another favorite as well as “America the Beautiful.”

Thank you, Sarvinder and Kadir, for bringing this stunning new book into our lives. For a closer look at BLUE SKY, WHITE STARS, please visit its website HERE.

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY, SARVINDER!!!

___________________________________

About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes board books, picture books, easy readers and middle-grade adventure novels. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension. Her latest books include My Busy Green Garden (Tilbury House) and Mama Loves You So (Little Simon).

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Let Nature Nurture You, and Wash Your Spirit Clean

Readers of Terry Pierce’s cozy MAMA LOVES YOU SO will encounter many poetic images of nature nurturing the young, reminding us that nature has room to nurture us at any age.  mama-loves-you-so-coverTerry will be giving away a signed copy of MAMA LOVES YOU SO as part of her book launch week. Enter by leaving a comment below, and she will enter your name into the giveaway (up to one comment per day.) Read on to see how nature nurtures Terry and some of her fellow kidlit writers.

Terry has always found solace in nature, going back to her childhood. “For hours, I could sit cradled in the branches of a tree, or perched on a rock watching the woods. Anytime I’m feeling restless, worried, or at a breaking point, if I can get out in nature I’m instantly calmed and can put things in perspective. And I love writing in the woods! I carry a waterproof journal and pencil in my backpack because my muse often appears in nature. In fact, I wrote MAMA LOVES YOU SO outside, inspired by the grandeur of the mountains.

 

TerryLyingonRock

The place in nature that nurtures me the most are the Sierra Nevada mountains. Whether I’m sunning on a boulder, climbing, hiking, listening to a stream, or watching wildlife (hopefully with a camera in hand), I’m at peace in the mountains. I once spent five weeks hiking from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney, one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

John Muir, one of my favorite writers, once wrote, ‘Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. So true! My hope is that MAMA LOVES YOU SO will inspire parents to take their little ones outdoors so they can learn to love nature and feel its benefits, too.”

 

Author Debbi Michiko Florence finds, “Whenever my mind gets too busy or I feel overwhelmed by my Things To Do list, all I need to do is step outside. I have two ducks (Darcy and Lizzy) and at least twice a day I have ‘duck time.’

IMG_5135

I let them out of their coop to wander the yard and I sit there, watching them, listening to bird song (and duck quacks), breathe the fresh air and watch the clouds roll by. My mind settles and I get present with what is. Duck time is meditative for me and nurtures me like nothing else.”

 

 

Author Hayely Barrett appreciates animals too. “As much as I love people, I’m deeply thankful that humans aren’t the only creatures on this planet. Life on Earth is spectacularly varied, and whether I watch a video of a jaguar slinking through the rainforest or spot a fisher slinking through my yard, I am cheered.

Me and Munchkin

Hayley and Munchkin, fully themselves

I enjoy the company of non-humans, horses and dogs especially. They are fully themselves—unchanging and at peace—and spending time with them helps me to remember who I am too.”

 

 

 

 

Author Katie Slivensky shares,

bluejoyNature calms me by giving me something to focus on that is external. I was stuck on some summary work during a snow day in February, and then a paused and spent an hour taking pictures of blue jays outside. That took my mind away from my book troubles, and when I came back around to work on those summaries later, I had a much easier time.”

 

Author Megan Lloyd’s debut picture book celebrates kids in nature, and she finds support there herself. “When I find myself getting anxious, with my heart racing and my thoughts swirling, going outside for a walk, or just taking a minute to sit in the sunshine, centers me. It helps me let go of my problems and instead feel absorbed in the beauty around me. And then I’m ready to take a deep breath…and return to my challenges (writing and otherwise), with a renewed sense of perspective and focus.”

Author and agent Ammi-Joan Paquette knows where writers can find an ever-present boost beyond their writing chair, saying, “Nature is nurturing because it is always accepting, always peaceful, always there. It’s like a personal magic kingdom that lies in wait for whenever you need it.”

And wherever any of us are in the writing and publishing process, there’s not one of us who couldn’t use plenty of that.

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Filed under Book Launch, Inspiration, Nature, Thankfulness, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

Border Collies and Babies—It’s Never Too Soon To Start (plus a giveaway!)

The story I’m about to tell is relevant to Terry Pierce’s MAMA LOVES YOU SO. I promise.

mama-loves-you-so-coverYears ago, my brother got a beautiful border collie puppy. I remember how excited Warren was, and I remember the solemn advice the breeder gave him. It was this: Show the dog everything he’s ever going to see within the first six months of his life. In short, it was Warren and his family’s responsibility to quickly give intelligent, impressionable Comet the information he’d need to thrive.

*presses pause on dog story*

My first professional, if unrequited, love is midwifery. Permit me to geek out for a bit.

The importance of verbally communicating with babies—and I mean from about 6 months gestation onward—cannot be overstated. Auditory function in the human fetus is complete at 7 months. Not only do they hear and respond to outside noises, research suggests babies learn intonation and can develop a basic recognition of words before birth. After birth, newborns rapidly form brain synapses that correspond with their birth language. In fact, studies have shown that young children who leave their birth language behind through immigration or adoption retain an enhanced ability to relearn it. Cool, huh?

Now let’s talk about MAMA LOVES YOU SO. This book, meant for the tiny ears of the tiniest of people, employs exquisitely rich and melodic language. It describes a world that is sparkling, stony, and ablaze. These are words an adult would be happy to use on a given day. MAMA LOVES YOU SO is crammed full of such delicious and nutritious words. It’s a brain-building buffet for babies and a boon to the brave souls who care for them. Baby and Book

Babies are exhausting. I know. I’ve had two babies, and two aren’t many at all. My in-laws had ten. My parents had five. Have I wondered if  I’m a slacker in the baby department? Yes. But that’s not my point.

Babies require mountains of back-breaking, laundry-making, sleep-taking care, and that’s just to keep them alive. We’re also supposed to educate, encourage, and entertain them. While all forms of communication nourish babies’ language readiness, including singing and everyday conversation, it’s challenging to know what to sing or say to a baby all day, every day.

I ask you, how are sleep-deprived people, wracked as they are with desperate love and stabs of anxiety, supposed to dredge up words like ablaze? They need books. They need books to give them words when they are too tired or overwhelmed to think up their own. Their children are primed to quickly learn millions of discrete, dynamic words, and optimally, they’d possess this treasure trove before starting school.  Where language acquisition is concerned, variety isn’t the spice of life, it is life. Books like MAMA LOVES YOU SO are a sure and happy route to that variety.

We must encourage caregivers, all the caregivers, to talk to babies early and often. Encourage them to talk to the belly, to sing to it, explain stuff to it, and for the love of literacy, to read to it. Encourage them to talk to the newborn. To sing. To explain. To read. We can smile at them benevolently when they do all of this in public. If we get the chance, we can give the caregiver a minute to shower and eat something while we talk, sing, explain, and read.

It might be possible to show a puppy everything it’s ever going to see in six months, but it’s impossible for a human newborn. Luckily, we have opposable thumbs, and opposable thumbs are great for making bookstores and libraries. That’s where Terry Pierce’s beautiful and important MAMA LOVES YOU SO can be found, ready and waiting to offer intelligent, impressionable young people information they need to thrive.

*presses play on dog story* 

Comet lived a long and happy life. He understood his world and how to conduct himself in it, thanks to purposeful attention to his formative experiences. May we do the same for each new child. We have longer than six months to accomplish it, but we don’t have forever. It’s never too soon to start.

 

Terry is giving away a signed copy of MAMA LOVES YOU SO as part of her book launch week. How to enter? Leave a comment below! For every comment you make this week—and please comment only once per day—she’ll enter your name into the giveaway.

Additional resources:

http://www.tipsonlifeandlove.com/book-mom

Valerie Garfield, Simon & Schuster editor of MAMA LOVES YOU SO, blogs about reading to and with children.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten

https://1000booksbeforekindergarten.org/about-us/mission-statement/


Enjoy the day,

Hayley
Hayley's Author PhotoI write for young people and live to make kids laugh. BABYMOON, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press, spring 2019. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, narrative nonfiction illustrated by Diana Sudyka, is also coming spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Inspiration, Picture books, reading, Uncategorized