April 14, 2015

Interview with Beth Ferry

Beth Ferry

Last week I reviewed a heart-warming friendship story called STICK AND STONE. Today I am exuberant to share with you my interview with debut author Beth Ferry. After reading her brilliantly sparse rhyming book last month I knew I needed to interview her. She is funny, chill, and gracious just as her characters. Do check out her website, l love the quotes.

1) Can you tell us a little about your writing journey? 

When I first joined the SCBWI, it was to remind myself that one day I wanted to be a writer. The SCBWI magazines were important because they let me dip my toes into the vast unknown ocean that was the writing world. I could peer down and see what was going on without taking the plunge myself. I didn’t know any other writers and didn’t even realize there were writing conferences, so I basically just wrote without worrying about being published. I dove into my first conference in 2009 and brought a 900-word rhyming PB about pirates. It wasn’t pretty, but it was the first of many very important learning experiences. In 2011, I challenged myself to write a story under 200 words even though I am much more comfortable treading the over 500-word waters. That challenge resulted in Stick and Stone.

I agree SCBWI rocks! A 900-word rhyming PB, that’s not so bad. Hope you saved it for posterity’s sake. Very cool that Stick and Stone originated out of a challenge to yourself.

 

2) Do you mainly write in rhyme or prose? How do you know which style to pick for a story?

Boy, do I love rhyme. I love to read it and I love to write it, but I don’t often indulge. I tried writing Stick and Stone in prose, but I was getting bogged down and couldn’t stick to the 200-word limit I had set for myself. Once I tried it in rhyme, it came pretty easily. Many times I try to write my story in both forms. It’s time-consuming, but the form that will ultimately work usually asserts itself rather obviously.

 

3) Can you tell us about your writing process? I really enjoyed your post of comparing revision to rock tumbling. On average how long are each of the stages. 

I think the revision process is never-ending. As I’m sure you know, it is very hard to ascertain when the story is completely “done”. There are so many hard parts – coming up with the idea, actually getting it down with a workable arc and then polishing, polishing, polishing. So I definitely spend most of my time – easily weeks and months – revising.

Good to know, my rock tumbler must be on the really slow setting as it takes me months to years to get to polished. FYI – my kids have a rock tumbler and they love it.

 

4) Your posts on poetic devices were superb. Do you have favorite poetic devices that you use in your writing? (part 1 and part 2 posts on poetic devices)

As a matter of fact I do. My favorite happens to be anaphora, which appears in the title of that post you referred to. Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase in the beginning of each sentence. Repetition is common in picture book writing because it allows the child to anticipate and participate. I really like to use it because it’s like a verbal underline and makes reading aloud much more fun.

Anaphora and alliteration seem to be popping up in my writing lately. Thanks for defining anadiplosis. Now I know why the chorus from “Glad You Came” is so catchy.

 

5) What was your inspiration for Stick and Stone? Did it have anything to do with the childhood rhyme sticks and stones?

My inspiration was a song by Train called “Drops of Jupiter”. There is a line in that song that goes, “Can you imagine your best friend sticking up for you even when I know you’re wrong.” That line really struck a chord with me and the idea popped into my head that having a stick “stick up” for a stone would be a fun twist on that childhood rhyme. So that definitely played a part in the idea.

Very cool. I never would’ve guessed a pop song was the start of it all.

 

6) Once you were agented did she ask for any changes to Stick and Stone? Did the editor ask for any changes?

Stick and Stone didn’t really require any major editorial changes, most likely due to its brevity. My agent, Elena Giovinazzo and I tweaked it a bit before it was submitted and then ultimately, I think only one word was changed once I began working with the wonderful Kate O’Sullivan.

 

7) Would you like to tell us a little about your upcoming titles?

landsharkAbsolutely. I’m very excited to announce that Land Shark, illustrated by Ben Mantle, will be released on July 28, 2015 by Chronicle Books. It is the tale of a shark-loving boy who just knows that a shark will make the perfect pet. When his birthday present turns out to be a puppy, the boy and his family discover just how similar puppies and sharks really are. Keeping with the pet theme, Pirate’s Perfect Pet will be released by Candlewick in the Fall of 2016. It is illustrated by Matt Myers and follows a pirate’s journey as he searches for the perfect pet. I’ve seen the sketches and they are fabulous!

These sound awesome! Will definitely be keeping an eye out for them.

 

8) Anything else you would like to share with readers? 

I think as picture book writers, there is always a bit of trepidation when it comes to the art. The art is essential in bringing the story to life and it’s the one area over which we authors have no control. So I need to share the joy I experienced in watching Tom create the characters of Stick and Stone. His art was absolutely spot-on and perfect – all an author could hope for.

****************************

Some rapid fire questions.

Fact that most people don’t know about you?

I only plant pumpkins in my garden.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?

Carving pumpkins!

Favorite pick me up snack/drink?

Lemon cookies and hot tea.

What book is on your bedside table?

Without fail, there is always a Diana Gabaldon book waiting to be re-read. This week’s books include All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, All the Light We Cannot See by Michael Dorrer and Bunny Money by Rosemary Wells.

 

Thank you Beth for stopping by today and sharing a bit about yourself. Wishing you many future successes.

April 10, 2015

Stick and Stone – plus Giveaway!

Stick and StoneTitle: Stick and Stone

Author: Beth Ferry
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-6
Themes: Friendship

Opening Lines:

“Stick. Stone.
Lonely. Alone.
A zero. A one.
Alone is no fun.”

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

When Stick rescues Stone from a prickly situation with a Pinecone, the pair becomes fast friends. But when Stick gets stuck, can Stone return the favor?
Author Beth Ferry makes a memorable debut with a warm, rhyming text that includes a subtle anti-bullying message even the youngest reader will understand. New York Times bestselling illustrator Tom Lichtenheld imbues Stick and Stone with energy, emotion, and personality to spare.

Activities:

  • Activity Kit including circle-time games, printable (friendship bracelets, drawing, maze)
  • Classroom lesson for on anti-bullying using the rhyme “sticks and stones can …”
  • Another anti-bullying lesson plan.

 

Why I Like This Book:

A heartwarming friendship story between a stick and a stone. It is amazing what Ms. Ferry has achieved in only 139 words and in rhyme. It’s a simple story of finding a friend, losing a friend, and finding them again. The story is filled with loads of good things we want our kids to see such as compassion and loyalty, and the joys of friendship. Kids will enjoy seeing how Stick and Stone play together and Stone’s superb way for saving Stick.

As a writer, I like the short one word sentences in the beginning spreads that help convey the isolation each character is feeling. Sort of like two parallel stories that come together. Whereas later when the duo are together the author uses a comma “Stick, Stone”. Subtle but poignant.

Mr. Lichtenheld’s endearing child-like pencil and watercolor illustrations heighten the emotion of the author’s sparse text. I remember pausing and feeling the character’s loneliness the first time I saw this spread.

stickstone_4

 

Here is the scene where the two become friends after Stick sticks up for Stone. I love their silly smiles. I have yet to figure out what makes these characters so child-like but I love it.

stickstone_1

 

Love this art, totally feeling the scariness here.

stickstone_2

 

The three-panel spread (on the left) is brilliant in heightening the emotion. I love the increasing size and jitteriness of the text as Stone calls out for Stick.

stickstone_3

 

This book is perfect for lap-reading at home or for use in preschool storytime.

Checkout my interview with Beth Ferry!

Giveaway:

For a chance to win this book, leave a comment. Deadline to enter is Thursday, April 16th at 9pm PST.

Here is a short trailer of this charming book.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

STICK AND STONE. Copyright © 2015. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

March 27, 2015

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

Up in the Garden and Down in the DirtTitle: Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

Author: Kate Messner
Illustrator: Christopher Silas Neal
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2015
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Gardening, Insects, Ecosystem

Excerpt:

“I hide behind the cucumber vines, but their leaves can’t save me. I shiver and laugh, drenched in Nana’s rain.

Down in the dirt, water soaks deep. Roots drink it in, and a long-legged spider stilt-walks over the streams.”

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

In this exuberant and lyrical follow-up to the award-winning Over and Under the Snow, discover the wonders that lie hidden between stalks, under the shade of leaves . . . and down in the dirt. Explore the hidden world and many lives of a garden through the course of a year! Up in the garden, the world is full of green—leaves and sprouts, growing vegetables, ripening fruit. But down in the dirt exists a busy world—earthworms dig, snakes hunt, skunks burrow—populated by all the animals that make a garden their home.

Activities:

  • Plant a garden or maybe just some tomato and cucumber plants to start.
  • Grow butterflies or insects. Check out Insect Lore for kits.
  • Check-out Kidsgardening for additional classroom and family resources.
  • Pinterest themed board “Bugs in the Garden” that contains preschool crafts and activities.

Why I Like This Book:

This book takes you on a wondrous journey down in the dirt with fascinating details and lush language that simply leaves the reader in awe. I love the juxtaposition of the ‘down in the dirt’ scenes with their darker colored illustrations  and complex details of the ecosystem, against the ‘up in the garden’ scenes that are light-colored and depict simple childhood pleasures, such as quenching glass of lemonade or cooling water spray. An engaging book that will enrapture the reader as they travel through the weeks, months and seasons in the garden.

Here are some spreads from the book.

upinthegarden_1

upinthegarden_4

upinthegarden_6

 

This is perfect for classroom science discussions as it includes wonderful back matter on all the animals mentioned. Also good for home libraries due its narrative storytelling. Do also check out the previous book in this series Over and Under the Snow about the subnivean layer during winter time.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Chronicle Books. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

February 23, 2015

Picture Books – Spring 2015

spring2015

 

Here are some of the picture book titles coming out in the next few months that I can’t WAIT to read! Any other new picture books I should know about? Leave a comment would love to know.

  • Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal. March 3, 2015. Explore the hidden world and many lives of a garden through the course of a year! Up in the garden, the world is full of green—leaves and sprouts, growing vegetables, ripening fruit. But down in the dirt exists a busy world—earthworms dig, snakes hunt, skunks burrow—populated by all the animals that make a garden their home.
  • I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. March 31, 2015. Wishes for curiosity and wonder, for friendship and strength, laughter and peace. Whether celebrating life’s joyous milestones, sharing words of encouragement, or observing the wonder of everyday moments, this sweet and uplifting book is perfect for wishers of every age.
  • Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld. April 7, 2015. When Stick rescues Stone from a prickly situation with a Pinecone, the pair becomes fast friends. But when Stick gets stuck, can Stone return the favor?
  • By Mouse and Frog by Deborah Freedman. April 14, 2015. Fastidious Mouse has one idea about how to tell a story. Free-spirited Frog has another. What happens when Frog crashes into Mouse’s story with some wild ideas? Chaos!…followed by the discovery that working together means being willing to compromise—and that listening to one another can lead to the most beautiful stories of all.
  • Water is Water by Miranda Paul and Jason Chin. May 26, 2015. This spare, poetic picture book follows a group of kids as they move through all the different phases of the water cycle.
January 25, 2015

Tari: The Little Balinese Dancer (Multicultural Children’s Book Day)

tariTitle: Tari: The Little Balinese Dancer

Author: Pamela Noensie
Illustrator: Garretta Lamore
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing, 2013
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 6-9
Themes: Dance, Balinese Culture

Opening Lines:
“This is a story of Bali, the people who live there, and especially of one little girl named Tari.

Bali is an island, one of many in a country called Indonesia. Bali is close to the equator so it stays near the sun all year long. Mornings are beautiful, warm, and full of light.”

Synopsis (from Tuttle Publishing website):

Tari lives on the beautiful island of Bali with her family and friends. She lives a wonderful life, marked by all the things that make Bali special—the lively temple celebrations which occur regularly in her village, the gorgeous surroundings, the warm feelings of her Balinese neighbors, and, most importantly, dance.

Tari lives to dance. Just like her beloved grandmother, dance exists for both of them as a favorite art form. One day, Tari’s grandmother gives her a special gift—but shortly after, she passes away. In a special ceremony, Tari and her family bid goodbye to her grandmother. Tari gives her grandmother the best gift she knows how to give—a perfect performance of a dance that her grandmother, too, performed when she was very young.

Intended for young girls who love to dance, Tari: The Little Balinese Dancer is a moving tale set on the tropical island of Bali, and it provides an excellent introduction to key aspects of Balinese culture. No matter what her ethnicity, young girls will easily relate to the special themes in this story, including the importance of family and the strong bonds of community, traditions such as the famous Legong dance, death of a family member, and the grieving process. Full of traditional Balinese Hindu beliefs, this story offers the message that kids all over the world are unified in the ways they feel about the people and things they love.

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:

A beautiful introduction for kids to Bali and its culture. The book isn’t so much a story about Balinese dancing as it is about the Balinese way of life. I especially enjoyed learning about how the Bali homes are said to be laid out in the order of a human body – head is the temple area while the kitchen and garbage area are near the feet. Another interesting tidbit, all temples face the volcano at the center of the island.

The book is laid out like a storybook format with chapters for the 32-paged book. There are one to two spot illustrations on every page.

MCBookDayI am very excited  to be a book reviewer participating in Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature on January 27th, 2014. What is Multicultural Children’s Book Day? It is a national event which  Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom created to celebrate diversity in children’s books. MCCBD team hopes to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media. This year’s MCCBD is January 27th!  More about MCCBD and the events this year later in this post. Now onto our book!!

Why is Multicultural Children’s Book Day so important?

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

MCCBD’s  2015 Sponsors include

Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press,Daybreak Press Global Bookshop

Gold SponsorsSatya House,  MulticulturalKids.com,   Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof

Silver Sponsors: Junior Library GuildCapstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books,  The Omnibus Publishing

Bronze Sponsors:Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books,Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing,  Rainbow Books,   Author FeliciaCapers,   Chronicle Books   Muslim Writers Publishing ,East West Discovery Press.

Plus there are some fun events going on including giveaways!!

Platinum Sponsor Wisdom Tales Press is hosting a book giveaway on their website that anyone can enter. Winner will receive 6 Wisdom Tales Books of their choice.

Then for those of you on Twitter: Join us for Multicultural Children’s Book Day Twitter Party on Jan 27th 9:00pm EST. Use hashtag: #ReadYourWorld to win 10 book packages.
And to keep up-to-date on MCCBD: MCCBD now has it’s own Paper.li! A Paper.li is a free online newspaper that aggregates information on the topic of multicultural books for kids from all over the Internet. Please feel free subscribe and stay up-to-date with this topic.

MCBD is also partnering with First Book to offer a Virtual Book Drive that will help donate multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event. We want to help get diversity books into the hands of kids who most need it and now we have a way to do it! To donate or more information click here.

Also check out the MCCBD Pinterest Board to see all the books reviews and visit  Jump Into a Book and/or Pragmatic Mom on or after January 27th to see all the reviews in a link party!

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Tuttle Publishing. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

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