October 9, 2018

The Diamond and the Boy plus Interview with Hannah Holt

I am excited to be featuring Hannah Holt’s debut picture book. Hannah and I met years ago through the 12×12 Picture Book group. And became closer over the years as our writing journey took twists and turns. Now on my family trips to Portland, Oregon we make a point to meet-up. Hope you enjoy the review and interview. 

Synopsis for The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds and the Life of H. Tracy Hall (from Amazon website):

Told in a unique dual-narrative format, The Diamond and the Boy follows the stories of both natural diamond creation and the life of H. Tracy Hall, the inventor of a revolutionary diamond-making machine. Perfect for fans of Rosie Revere, Engineer, and On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein.

Before a diamond is a gem, it’s a common gray rock called graphite. Through an intense trial of heat and pressure, it changes into one of the most valuable stones in the world.

Before Tracy Hall was an inventor, he was a boy—born into poverty, bullied by peers, forced to work at an early age. However, through education and experimentation, he became one of the brightest innovators of the twentieth century, eventually building a revolutionary machine that makes diamonds.

From debut author Hannah Holt—the granddaughter of Tracy Hall—and illustrator Jay Fleck comes this fascinating in-depth portrait of both rock and man.

What I Like:

Love, love the parallel stories of the creation of the diamond and the journey Tracy Hall took to become an inventor. I love how the lyrical prose and emotional beats match at every spread. Brilliant writing!

Find The Diamond and the Boy at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0062659030
ISBN-13: 978-0062659033

Now onto the interview with Hannah!

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1) Writing for children is not your first career. Tell us about your background and how you came to write picture books.
Sure! My degree is in civil engineering, and I used to design transportation master plans for cities. My former career was all about keeping communities connected physically. My current work is about making emotional connections.

I enjoyed engineering, but my job had a demanding schedule with many public open houses. When my children were born, I transitioned to a work-from-home editing job. Then one Christmas, we were short on cash, and I thought, “I could write stories for family members for presents.” That launched a decade long journey into children’s publishing.

2) I understand this book is based on your grandfather’s life. Did telling a personal story, present any unique challenges? Any particular joys?

Young Tracy Hall

Writing about my grandfather was mostly a joy! My uncle let me wade through his garage one afternoon and bring home boxes of Grandpa’s personal papers. I also enjoyed interviewing family members and researching my grandfather’s successes.

On the flip side, it was difficult reading about the bullying my grandfather experienced as a child. I don’t delve into specifics in The Diamond and the Boy, but there’s a reason he learned to hide in the walls of his school. Reading about these hard times helped me understand his life and development better, but it was gut wrenching at times.

This sounds like a really special experience.

3) The story has two parallel narratives. I love how you lined up the beats of the two stories. How did you decide upon this structure?

My parallel version of this story came as a result of responding to failure. My first agent and I did not part ways on happy terms. She wrote a long and hurtful note when we separated, and after that I wasn’t sure if I could or should go on writing. For the next month, I didn’t write a thing. Instead, I did a lot of soul searching. In the end, I came to the following conclusions:

I liked writing and missed it.

I couldn’t control whether or not anyone else liked my writing.

I could improve my craft.

I could become smarter about how and where I submitted my work.

This story, THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY, was one of the first stories I revised after this writing break. Previously, I had tried writing the story about Tracy’s cleverness or rocks that sparkle, but those ideas no longer seemed important.

Instead, I saw the need for resilience.

Graphite needed to become resilient…Tracy had to become resilient…

And I needed to get over myself, too, if I wanted to write this story well. So I threw out all my old drafts and started from scratch. Writing a story in parallel about change and resilience seemed natural because it was the journey I was on myself.

This story went on to attract interest from multiple houses.

Lasting success takes hard work and resilience. I’m really glad I didn’t give up!

Thank you for sharing that personal story. I’m so glad you were resilient!

4) Pretend this is the year 2028, what types of books would I see your name on?

I’d like to have a middle grade novel accepted for publication. However, I’m also happy to keep writing more picture books. I love the challenge of telling complex stories in 800 words or less. Picture books are my favorite creative outlet.

5) Any books in the near future we should be on the lookout for?

My second book, A Father’s Love, comes out this year just in time for Father’s Day. It’s a lyrical non-fiction picture book that celebrates different types of animal father’s from all around the world.

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Some rapid fire questions.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
Napping. I’ve spent the last month prepping for a book launch. Napping sounds really good right now.

If you could interview any person living or dead, who would it be?
Edwin Chadwick. That’s just my answer today. Ask me next month, and I’ll come up with someone different.

Favorite pick me up snack/drink?
Chocolate.

What book is on your bedside table?
Smart But Scattered

Where can readers find you on the Internet?

Websitehttps://hannahholt.com/
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/hannah.w.holt
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hannahwholt

About the Author:

Hannah is a children’s author with an engineering degree. Her books, The Diamond & The Boy (2018, Balzer & Bray) and A Father’s Love (2019, Philomel) weave together her love of language and science. She lives in Oregon with her husband, four children, and a very patient cat named Zephyr. She and her family enjoy reading, hiking, and eating chocolate chip cookies.

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

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September 17, 2018

Interview with Margaret Greanias

Last Friday, I shared the heart-warming Maximillian Villainous. Today I am excited to share with you my interview with my dear friend and debut author Margaret Greanias.

Who are your creative influences – in books, art, or any other media?

Oh wow, this is a tough question! I have many creative influences when it comes to books, and I’m sure I can’t name them all because sometimes influence is a subconscious thing.
During my early years, my favorite authors and stories that I read over and over again were:

  • Tammi Sauer’s “Mostly Monsterly” and “Nugget and Fang” for the humor and full circle structure.
  • Bonny Becker’s “A Visitor For Bear” for the writing, humor, and voice.
  • Kelly Di Pucchio’s “Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet” and “Zombie in Love” for the humor.
  • Pat Zietlow Miller’s “Sophie’s Squash” and “Quickest Kid in Clarksville”
  • Michelle Knudsen’s “Library Lion” and “Big Mean Mike” for the storytelling and read-aloud ability.
  • Peter Brown’s “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild” and “Children Make Terrible Pets” for turning concepts on their heads.
  • Tara Lazar’s “Little Red Gliding Hood” and “7 Ate 9” for clever wordplay.
    More recently, I’ve really enjoyed the lyricism of Megan Wagner Lloyd’s “Finding Wild” and Katherine Applegate’s “Sometimes You Fly.”
    Can you see any of these influences in MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS?

As writers, we take in our surroundings and experiences and sometimes put it into our writing. Are there any details in MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS that have come from your life?

Most of the details and actions in MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS were inspired by real life. For example, the idea of writing about villains came because my kids were loving the Despicable Me movies. The idea of wanting a pet came from my own childhood experience of pining away for a dog.
Also, smaller elements of the story — from the way Max pesters his family to get what he wants to making the leprechaun trap — all were inspired by my kids and what they were doing at and around the time I was writing the story.

Were there any specific challenges you encountered during the process of writing this story? Any particular joys?

I encountered many challenges in writing MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS — it took two years from concept to ugly drafts to completion.
One challenge was creating a fresh story. I tried addressing this by mashing up two different concepts (villains and wanting a pet).
Another challenge was giving each family member a unique voice to distinguish them from each other especially since two family members (the dad and the grandfather) don’t have any action, only dialogue.
Another challenge was letting go of an ending I loved to find the right ending that worked best for the story. I initially had Max solving his problem and then the family rejecting his solution even though he met their requirements. I got the very astute feedback that the story should wrap up quickly once Max solves his problem. I always keep this feedback in mind even with current projects so that I don’t repeat the same mistake.

My biggest joy was when I found a way for Max to solve his problem in a surprising yet inevitable way (you’ll have to read the book to find out how he does it!). It gave me the same sort of satisfaction as solving a tough puzzle.

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Some rapid fire questions.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
Park ranger

Favorite pick me up snack/drink?
drink: green tea
snack: berries or stone fruit

If you could have any kind of animal as a pet, what would it be?
Of course, a bunny. 🙂

What book(s) is on your bedside table?
The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh
War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

Where can readers find you on the Internet?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MargaretGreaniasAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MargaretGreania
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/margaretgreanias/
Website: http://www.margaretgreanias.com

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

September 14, 2018

Maximillian Villainous

I am so excited to tell you about this wonderful book by debut author Margaret Greanias. This is extra special since Margaret has been my critique partner and friend since 2011! I saw this book in its nascent forms and to see it today with sparkling text and colorful pictures– I’m in awe. ❤ Come back next week for an interview with the author!

Title: Maximillian Villainous

Author: Margaret Greanias 
Illustrator: Lesley Breen Withrow (great interview at Kathy Temean’s blog)
Publisher: Running Press Kids, 2018
Editor: Julie Matysik
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Theme: Being Yourself

Excerpt:

When his father stole Santa’s sleigh, Max gave Santa keys to the family car.

When his grandfather robbed the Tooth Fairy, Max left her an apology and his piggy bank.

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Maximillian Villainous is a monster who doesn’t have the heart to be a villain. His famous family pulls pranks on the likes of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and Max spends his time undoing them. So when he brings home a bunny to be his sidekick, Max’s disapproving mother hatches a plan. She challenges Max and the bunny to become a devious duo; otherwise . . . the bunny hops. If they want to stay together, Max and the bunny have no choice but to go against their nature. They blunder into villainy with comical effect until Max discovers that embracing his good heart may just be the key to pulling off the most devious deed of all and winning his family’s acceptance.

Activities:

Why I Love This Book:

Warm-hearted Max and bunny are sure to win over readers young and old in this tale about staying true to yourself. My favorite parts are seeing the ways Max has subverted his family’s devious deeds in the opening pages and then his own blunders in trying to complete the tasks from his mother’s challenge. The ending is the perfect culmination proving to all he is a Villainous, and the reader will want to cheer Max on since he got what he wanted and he did it his way! The author has also done a magnificent job providing distinct character lines for the three older family members. Read for yourself:

“Oh, evil up already!” said his father.

“Thirteen generations of first-class villainy wiped out by a bunny,  said his grandfather.”

“If that bunny is still here tomorrow, I will launch him into space,” said his mother.

The childlike, colorful illustrations are endearing and joyous and compliment Max and bunny’s personality beautifully. I do like the addition of the baby sister. Could we get a sequel with the two siblings … that would be fun!  😉

The large trim size and bold colors make it perfect for group storytime or reading at home.

Find Maximillian Villainous at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0762462973
ISBN-13: 978-0762462971

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

August 30, 2018

South Asian Kidlit – Part 3

Dear Faithful readers, thanks so much for stopping by for another South Asian Kidlit round-up! Last one for 2018. You can use the rest of this year to catch up on your reading since there are a whole bunch of new books coming out in 2019! If you would like to check-out past round-ups click on this link which will take you to my past South Asian Kidlit posts. Also stay tuned, since I will have some very exciting news of my own to share. 😉

The books listed below are traditionally published and are either by a South Asian author, contains a South Asian Main Character, or involves South Asian culture. The books are organized by Category and then Publication Date.


Title: Diwali Lights
Author: Rina Singh
Publisher: Orca Books
Publication Date: August 28th, 2018
Category-Genre: Board Book – Concept Book

Synopsis: Every year in October or November, most Indians come together to celebrate Diwali.
All the stories of Diwali celebrate the victory of good over evil and light over darkness.
Diwali is the biggest and the brightest of all Indian festivals. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is a central figure of the festival. Diwali is a time of great joy. Happy Diwali!

Bio: Rina Singh has published several critically acclaimed books for children inspired by her Indo-Canadian heritage. Her book – A Forest of Stories has been translated in many languages. Her book – Diwali: A Festival of Lights was nominated for the Red Cedar Award. This is her third book with Orca. She lives in a blue house in Toronto. Surrounded by tall trees, birds, squirrels, a rabbit, and a fish pond in her garden, she hopes to write many more books for children.

Website: www.rinasingh.com
Twitter: @storiesbysingh
Instagram: @storiesbysingh

Title: A Dog Named Haku, A Holiday Story From Nepal  
Authors: Amish Karanjit and Nicole Karajit, co-authored with Margarita Engle
Illustrator: Ruth Jeyaveeran
Publisher: Lerner Books
Publication Date: September 1, 2018
Category-Genre: Picture Book

Synopsis: Two adventurous young boys search Kathmandu for a stray dog to feed during a dog-honoring festival.

Bios: 

Amish Karanjit is from Nepal, and currently works as a medical biotech research associate near San Francisco. A Dog Named Haku was inspired by events from his own childhood, and by his family’s survival after the 2015 earthquake.

Nicole Karanjit is a linguist and adult ELL instructor from California, currently working as a full-time mom and mixed-media artist near San Francisco.

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of picture books such as Drum Dream Girl and All the Way to Havana. She is currently the Young People’s Poet Laureate. Nicole is her daughter, and Amish is her son-in-law. They collaborated on A Dog Named Haku to provide two-year-old Maya Karanjit with a mirror book about her father’s culture.

Margarita Engle
Website: www.margaritaengle.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/margarita.engle.1
Twitter: @YPPLaureate

Title: Super Satya Saves the Day 
Author: Raakhee Mirchandani
Illustrator: Tim Palin
Publisher: Bharat Babies
Publication Date: October 2nd, 2018
Category-Genre: Picture Book

Synopsis: Super Satya is ready to have a super day, including finally conquering the tallest slide in Hoboken. But her day takes a not-so-super turn when she realizes her superhero cape is stuck at the dry cleaner. Will she be able to face her fears, help her friends and be the true hero everyone knows she is? Super Satya Saves The Day introduces Satya, a precocious Indian-American superhero.

Bio: Raakhee Mirchandani is an writer, editor, Jersey Girl and pediatric cancer crusader. Her work has appeared in Elle, Glamour, Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News, New York Post, Redbookand HuffPo. She’s the Editor-in-Chief of Moneyish, published by Dow Jones. “Super Satya Saves the Day” is Raakhee’s first book and is inspired by her own fiery 4-year-old daughter Satya.

Website: www.raakstar.com
Twitter: @Raakstar
Instagram: @RaakstarWrites


Title: Shubh Raatri Dost/Good Night Friend 
Author & Illustrator: Nidhi Chanani
Publisher: Bharat Babies
Publication Date: October 2018
Category-Genre: Board Book-Bilingual, Animal Primer

Synopsis: As day turns to night, follow Bhai (brother) and Behan (sister) in their Indian farm home while they bid their animal friends a good night. Children will love this sweet sleep tale that builds their Hindi and English vocabulary. Every page includes Hindi language script, Romanized Hindi, and English language, which makes each language accessible to your whole family.

Bio: Nidhi Chanani is a freelance illustrator, cartoonist and writer. She was born in Calcutta and raised in suburban southern California. She creates because it makes her happy – with the hope that it can make others happy, too. In April of 2012, she was honored by the Obama Administration as a Champion of Change.

Instagram: nidhiart
Twitter: @nidhiart
Tumblr: nidhiart
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/nidhichananiartist

Title: Meet Yasmin 
Author: Saadia Faruqi
Illustrator: Hatem Aly
Publisher: Picture Window Books/Capstone
Publication Date: August 1, 2018
Category-Genre: Early Chapter Books

Synopsis: Yasmin is a spirited second-grader who’s always on the lookout for those “aha” moments to help her solve life’s little problems. Taking inspiration from her surroundings and her big imagination, she boldly faces any situation, assuming her imagination doesn’t get too big, of course! A creative thinker and curious explorer, Yasmin and her multi-generational Pakistani American family will delight and inspire readers.

Bios:
Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American writer, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes for a number of publications including the Huffington Post, and is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose. Her adult short story collection Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan was published in 2015.

Hatem Aly is an Egyptian-born illustrator whose work has been featured in multiple publications worldwide. One of the books he illustrated is The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz, which won a Newbery Honor and other awards despite Hatem’s drawings of a farting dragon, a two-headed cat, and stinky cheese.

Saadia Faruqi
Website: www.saadiafaruqi.com
Facebook: @SaadiaFaruqiAuthor
Twitter: @SaadiaFaruqi
Instagram: @SaadiaFaruqi

Hatem Aly
Website: www.metahatem.com
Facebook: @MetaHatem
Twitter: @MetaHatem
Instagram: @MetaHatem

Title: Murder at the Grand Raj Palace 
Author: Vaseem Khan
Publisher: Redhook, Hachette Publishing
Publication Date: June 12, 2018
Category-Genre: Young Adult – Crime Fiction

Synopsis: When American billionaire Hollis Burbank is found dead in India’s most iconic hotel the authorities are keen to label it a suicide. But the man in charge of the investigation is not so sure. Inspector Ashwin Chopra is called in – with his baby elephant sidekick – and discovers a hotel full of people with a reason to want Burbank dead…

Bio: Vaseem Khan is the author of the Mumbai-set Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series. The first book The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra was a Times bestseller and an Amazon Best Debut. Born in London, Vaseem spent a decade working in India. He now works at University College London’s Department of Security and Crime Science.

Website: http://vaseemkhan.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VaseemKhanOfficial/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/VaseemKhanUK

Title: A Spark of White Fire 
Author: Sangu Mandanna
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Category-Genre: Young Adult-Space Opera

Synopsis: Inspired by the Mahabharata, A Spark of White Fire tells the story of Esmae, an orphan and servant who enters a competition and reveals herself to be the lost princess of a kingdom on the brink of a civil war. With an unbeatable, sentient warship on her side, she sets out to end the war and restore the crown to the rightful ruler.

Bio: Sangu Mandanna was four years old when an elephant chased her down a forest road and she decided to write her first story about it. Seventeen years and many, many manuscripts later, she signed her first book deal. Sangu now lives in Norwich, a city in the east of England, with her husband and kids.

Website: http://www.sangumandanna.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/SanguMandanna
Instagram: http://instagram.com/sangumandanna

July 27, 2018

How to Code a Sandcastle

Title: How to Code a Sandcastle

Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Sara Palacios
Publisher: Viking Books, 2018
Editor: Kendra Levin and Leila Sales
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Theme: Coding, Persistence

Excerpt:

There must be a coding trick I can use.
Aha! a LOOP!
When you need to repeat something in code, you can use a LOOP!
“Pascal, LOOP through this SEQUENCE:”

  1. Fill the pail with sand.
  2. Dump the sand on our spot.
  3. Pat the sand down.

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

From the computer science nonprofit Girls Who Code comes this lively and funny story introducing kids to computer coding concepts.

All summer, Pearl has been trying to build the perfect sandcastle, but out-of-control Frisbees and mischievous puppies keep getting in the way! Pearl and her robot friend Pascal have one last chance, and this time, they’re going to use code to get the job done. Using fundamental computer coding concepts like sequences and loops, Pearl and Pascal are able to break down their sandcastle problem into small, manageable steps. If they can create working code, this could turn out to be the best beach day ever!

Activites:

  • Girls Who Code – Organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology. Click to find out what programs are available in your area – clubs, immersion programs in tech companies, and more.
  • Hour of Code – try out one of the programming activities.
  • Game and Activity Ideas using coding constructs for the toddler set by Vicki and Babies to Bookworms. She’s done wonderful job!

Why I Like This Book:

What’s not to love. A book that can breakdown coding concepts in a funny, engaging way with amazing colorful illustrations! Be still my beating heart. I love the way the author has broken down the building of a sandcastle into clear and simple steps and is able to connect it to fundamental concepts in coding – sequence, loops, if-then-else. While coding in itself can be dry, the author and illustrator have  infused plenty of humor along the way. Gotta love the ending which is the beauty of code and robotics.

Click to Enlarge — Art courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers

This book is a must for any classroom, school, and home library! Be on the lookout for How to Code a Rollercoaster!

Find How to Code a Sandcastle at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0425291987
ISBN-13: 978-0425291986

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

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