Archive for ‘Books by Topic’

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 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.

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.

March 16, 2018

Room In Your Heart

Title: Room In Your Heart

Author: Kunzang Choden
Illustrator: Pema Tshering
Publisher:  Kitaabworld, March 27, 2018
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-7
Theme: Kindness, Generosity

Opening Lines:

To the east of Thimphu and west of Trongsa, somewhere among the mountains high, lived an old woman in a little house.

A gray cat, a yellow dog and a brown speckled hen lived with her and shared her hearth.

Synopsis: (from Amazon website)

“Neypo shong gna? Is there room for me?” a wandering monk asks the old lady who lives on the hill. The question is repeated again and again as more and more visitors arrive. The kind lady welcomes them in one by one. But how will they all fit in her tiny little house?

This charming tale contains an important teaching about openness and generosity of spirit.

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:
A folktale that will delight and enlighten while opening the eyes and hearts of readers to Bhutanese life. In this tale, a charming old lady in a small one-room home offers hospitality to a monk, a messenger, a traveler and so on without even the slightest hesitation. She shares her meal with all of her guests even though it is not much “one got a single bit of turnip leaf, another a tiny piece of bone, another got a drop of soup” and the guests “savored their dinner and licked their bowls clean“. The appreciative guests wonder how the old lady could fit them all in, to which the monk answers with a wise saying which left this reader with a warm glow deep inside. The backmatter included some interesting facts about Bhutan. For instance, the GNH (Gross National Happiness) index that measures the nation’s prosperity is based on the citizens’ happiness.

The lyrical text paired with soft watercolors is a perfect combination for this tale of openness and love for all.


Find Room In your Heart at the following spots:
Kitaabworld | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0999547623
ISBN-13: 978-0999547625

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 an electronic copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

February 23, 2018

Festival of Colors

The Indian holiday of Holi is coming up next week, March 1 & 2, 2018 so it seemed appropriate to review this wonderful new picture book which introduces the holiday that will appeal to both newcomers to the holiday and those already familiar.

Title: Festival of Colors

Author: Kabir Sehgal & Surishtha Sehgal (check out the interview with this mother-son duo at Children’s Book Podcast)
Illustrator: Vashti Harrison
Publisher:  Beach Lane Books, 2018
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-6
Theme: Indian Holidays, Colors

Opening Lines:

Guavas are ripening. Lotuses are blooming. And Holi, the Indian festival of colors, is almost here.

Synopsis:

Spring is here, and it’s almost time for Holi, the Indian Festival of Colors. Siblings Mintoo and Chintoo are busy gathering flowers to make into colorful powders to toss during the festival. And when at last the big day comes, they gather with their friends, family, and neighbors for a vibrant celebration of fresh starts, friendship, forgiveness, and, of course, fun!

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:

A wonderful, colorful, accessible way of introducing young children to the Indian holiday of Holi. The simple structured text gently guides the reader through the fabulous colors while keeping the reader wondering what the two young characters, Chintoo and Mintoo, will be doing with the collected flowers. We then see the kids prepare the colored powders, which the authors term as petal-powder {love}. One of my favorite parts of the book is when the viewing lens expands beyond Mintoo and Chintoo’s home to show the reader that Holi is something bigger than just their family. The lines for the section read:

Chintoo and Mintoo are ready too! <page turn>
And so are their parents. <page turn>
And their friends. <page turn>
And their neighbors. And then … <page turn>

The book then conveys the sentiment of Holi being about friendship, forgiveness, and fresh starts, not just within the family but extending to the community as well. An author’s note at the end provides a brief overview of the holiday.

The artwork is dynamic and vivacious and most importantly kid-appealing.

Take a look at this wonderful 3D animated book trailer.

Find Festival of Colors at the following spots:
Kitaab World | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1481420496
ISBN-13:  978-1481420495

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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