Archive for ‘Non-Fiction’

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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October 31, 2017

Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years

Title: Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years

Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: David Litchfield
Publisher: Henry Holt, 2018
Editor: Sally Doherty
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Theme: Earth, Space

Opening Lines:

Hi! My name is Earth.
Some people call me Gaia, the World, the blue marble, or the third planet from the sun.
You can call me Planet Awesome.

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Prepare to learn all about Earth from the point-of-view of Earth herself! In this funny yet informative book, filled to the brim with kid-friendly facts, readers will discover key moments in Earth’s life, from her childhood more than four billion years ago all the way up to present day. Beloved children’s book author Stacy McAnulty helps Earth tell her story, and award-winning illustrator David Litchfield brings the words to life. The book includes back matter with even more interesting tidbits.

Activites:

Why I Like This Book:

A brilliant approach to a topic that has been written about many, many times. The author cleverly portrays Earth with a child-like persona which is warm and inviting and most importantly relatable for young readers. The reader learns about Earth’s siblings (other planets in the solar system), friends (Moon), favorite activities (spinning and circling the Sun).

Not to worry there is also something for the adult reader too. Check out this funny pun which is a nod to parenting.

“I don’t remember what it was like to be a baby. Who does? But I’ve been told I was a hot mess.
Explosive. Gassy! Very cranky.”

There is a wonderful timeline with major events (presence of air, insects, dinosaurs, flowers, homo sapiens) shown against a ruler to help the reader get a grasp of the massive time scale.

The book does touch on the rough times Earth has had with asteroids, volcanoes, and ice ages. While it can seem scary, the author does a good job of reassuring the young reader that Earth is still the same on the inside and continues on. The book ends on a note of environmentalism.

The art is cute and inviting with bold colors. It is rendered through a combination of pencils, ink, watercolor paints, and digital art tools.

There is additional backmatter regarding the continents, the location of Earth in space, and the five major extinctions and a bibliography.

A great book for a preschool, lower elementary, or home library.

Find Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 125010808X
ISBN-13: 978-1250108081

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

August 3, 2017

She Persisted

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton. A wonderful, engaging, accessible book for elementary aged children.Title: She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World

Author: Chelsea Clinton
Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger
Publisher: Philomel Books, 2017
Editor: Jill Santopolo
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 6-10
Theme: Persistence, Feminism, Activism

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

Chelsea Clinton introduces tiny feminists, mini activists and little kids who are ready to take on the world to thirteen inspirational women who never took no for an answer, and who always, inevitably and without fail, persisted.

Throughout American history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what’s right, even when they have to fight to be heard. In early 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced in the Senate inspired a spontaneous celebration of women who persevered in the face of adversity. In this book, Chelsea Clinton celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity, sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted.

She Persisted is for everyone who has ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who has ever tried to reach for the stars but was told to sit down, and for everyone who has ever been made to feel unworthy or unimportant or small.

With vivid, compelling art by Alexandra Boiger, this book shows readers that no matter what obstacles may be in their paths, they shouldn’t give up on their dreams. Persistence is power.

This book features: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor—and one special cameo.

Activities:

  • Check out this wonderful extension activity by Book Nerd Mommy. Have a child create a mini-biography by drawing another figure from history and adding a paragraph about how that person persisted.
  • Visit the Mighty Girl Books page to find other wonderful titles to encourage and inspire.

Why I Like This Book:

A timely, engaging book about 13 women who “persisted” through history against the status quo to pursue their dream for what they believed.

The opening spread invites the reader into the book with a portrait of each of the future biographies to come. The book starts with well-known women such as Harriet Tubman to lesser known women such as Virginia Apgar, to modern day women such as Oprah Winfrey and Sonia Sotomayor.She Persisted - Flowering Minds Book Review - opening spreadWhile history can be dry, these short 1-paragraph mini-biographies are perfect for engaging readers. The book contains women across different races, though my astute nine-year old noticed there were no South Asians. I replied that our history in the United States has been relatively short so maybe in another generation or two we’ll see more South Asians being celebrated in the media. I did wonder why there were no Chinese/Japanese – Americans since they have been in this country for much longer.

This book opens the doors to numerous conversations about persistence, race, feminism and more; that is where I think the real magic lies with this book.

The publisher recommended age is 4 to 8 years, however, I would say it is a bit older. Kids who can already recognize at least 4 to 5 women will have an easier time of staying engaged. The use of the phrase “she persisted” in each mini-biography helps to hold the stories together.

She Persisted - Flowering Minds Book Review - Sally Ride

The watercolor and ink art contributes a soft inviting feel for each story. The quotes by each famous woman were fun to read. One of my favorites being Sally Ride’s “Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see.

The only thing missing from this book was a reference page with other recommended titles to read. This book was done so well that I wanted to immediately know what else was out there. Missed opportunity.

Good for home and school libraries. Best read together with an adult.

Find She Persisted at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1524741728
ISBN-13:  978-1524741723

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June 7, 2017

Two Truths and a Lie Blog Tour: Interview + Giveaway

I can’t believe it is finally here! Only a few more weeks (Publication date: June 27, 2017) before you can get your curious hands on this wonderful book. A middle-grade non-fiction filled with quirky and interesting facts about plants, animals, humans and more … but wait some of the stories are FAKE! And you the reader has to figure out fact from fiction by doing some research. It is a book to get the gears turning in kids’ minds. If you want to know more about the book, check out this wonderful review at Librarian’s Quest.

Now on to the interview to learn a bit about how they worked on this book and details on the giveaway!


1) What was your inspiration or motivation to write this book?

LAT: The idea for the book was initially Joan’s, but what really got me excited about it was Facebook. Right about the time we started working on the proposal, it felt like every day my Facebook feed was showing me some new, unbelievable story that had me wondering, Is that really true? I had to go research so many stories to verify–or dispel–them before I felt like I could share them or leave a comment. It was becoming impossible to ignore that this is the world we now live in. And, there was clearly an endless stream of material!

2) How did you divide up the work?

AJP: We roughly go half and half across the board, and within that sphere we each choose our own stories. Sometimes there may be a bit of (virtual) arm wrestling involved when we’re both excited about one particular topic, but for the most part we each get very attached to stories we’ve stumbled across in our own research. I know I’ve always got a mental list of stories I’m dying to include in the next volume. It’s so hard to whittle down that list!
Also: Laurie is our resident non-fiction expert, so she takes on the brunt of the work when it comes to bibliographies and other technical goodness. She also loves photo research, while I’m much more likely to spend my time digging for punny titles J

LAT: Thankfully, it worked out perfectly. We make a great team!

3) What challenges did you face in working on this book?

AJP: Some of the stories are more obscure than others, and for the lesser known ones it can be harder to find reliable research material—not to mention photographic evidence. Occasionally there is a story that would be amazing to include but for some reason isn’t possible. But for me, the biggest challenge is choosing which stories to include: Our current idea spreadsheet has over 450 listings! How are we supposed to narrow that down to just 27 stories per issue?!

LAT: Agreed! Narrowing the stories down to just 27… AND then fitting them into the strict 3/3/3 structure. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle! (Which I’ll admit is one of the reasons I love doing these books, but it is definitely a huge challenge.) And, as Joan said earlier, we each have some favorite stories that we just have to include, so it takes quite a bit of juggling to make it all fit and make sense.

4) What was your favorite story to work on?

AJP: Oh, that’s impossible for me to say! I had a ton of fun with just about every one of them, although I suppose I might be partial to a little guy named Mike. An upcoming tale of bees-gone-rogue in book #2 is a personal favorite. The book scorpions are pretty neat. Oh, and also the … sigh. Carry on!

LAT: Truly an impossible question. So many of them instantly leap to the front of my mind! Zombie ants? Giant anaconda? Poop pills? The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus will always have a special place in my heart for several reasons. And plants! Plants are so amazing. That didn’t really answer your question, did it? J

5) How did you make the fake stories so darn believable? Embarrassed to say I did fall for them a few times.

AJP: This was the goal – I do confess that we get a delicious thrill every time we hear that this is the case! The fact is that the true stories are so unbelievable that the fake ones blend right in and are very hard to spot. There are also some terrific hoaxes already floating around out there, which are fun to take hold of and tweak a bit for inclusion in the book.

LAT: Hooray, mission accomplished! I think truth really is stranger than fiction, so we did have that on our side, as Joan said. Also, since many of our fake ones are based on existing hoaxes, they could sound familiar… Perhaps you read them on Facebook? That’s actually my greatest fear with these books, that people will remember that they read them but forget that they were actually false!

6) I understand this book is a part of a series. Can you tell us anything about the upcoming books?

AJP: They are coming, and they will be awesome! This is the kind of book series for which it seems there is an endless source of material. That idea spreadsheet I mentioned? It grows every week. I’m so excited to have two more books on the horizon, and I’m crossing fingers that we’ll get the chance to do many, many more.

LAT: Whereas the first book was about biology and life sciences, the second book will be all about social studies: history, geography, and culture. The third one… I’m going to keep that a secret for the time being.

About the Authors:

Ammi-Joan Paquette is the author of numerous books for young readers, including the Princess Juniper series, Nowhere Girl, Rules for Ghosting, and Two Truths and a Lie, co-written with Laurie Thompson. Her picture books include Bunny Bus, Ghost in the House, and The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies. Joan is the recipient of a PEN New England Discovery Award honor, and her books have been recognized with starred reviews and on a variety of “Best of the Year” lists. In her non-writing life, she is a senior literary agent with Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Visit her on the web at www.ajpaquette.com .

A former software engineer, Laurie Ann Thompson writes for young people to help them better understand the world we live in and make it a better place for all. She strives to write nonfiction that encourages imagination and fiction the reflects universal truths, as see in Be a Changemaker, and inspiring how-to guide for teens; Emmanuel’s Dream, a picture book biography of a man who changed perceptions of disability; My Dog is The Best; and the upcoming Two Truths and a Lie series for middle-grade readers (co-authored with Ammi-Joan Paquette). Learn more at lauriethompson.com and on Twitter at @lauriethompson.

Giveaway:

For a chance to win this book, let us know two truths and a lie about yourself in the comments below. (here are mine: Jumped out of a plane. Danced for 24 hours straight. Gotten stranded on a Greek island for two days.) Deadline to enter is Monday, June 12th at 9pm PST. The contest is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada.

 

5-Jun Librarian’s Quest

7-Jun
Flowering Minds
Pragmatic Mom

11-Jun Geo Librarian

12-Jun Book Monsters

13-Jun Smack Dab in the Middle

14-Jun Bluestocking Thinking

15-Jun
Novel Novice
Library Lions Roar

16-Jun Archimedes Notebook

18-Jun Nerdy Book Club

19-Jun Cracking the Cover

20-Jun
Writers Rumpus
The Hiding Spot

21-Jun Maria’s Melange

23-Jun Unleashing Readers

24-Jun This Kid Reviews Books

May 19, 2017

This is How We Do It

The start of the year has been busy. I took the Story Genius writing class which was amazing and intense. As a result, the picture books have been piling up in my office, and are begging for reviews. So today I bring you a book that has been dear to my heart since I first heard about it last Fall.

I have always loved to travel, especially internationally. When I was a kid one of my favorite things was to sit at JFK airport and people-watch. There were so many people from other countries. I loved to see how the dress, listen to them speak, see what stuff they carried with them. Sometimes the most interesting things about another culture aren’t their tourist sites but the ordinary daily activities – how they get around, what they eat, what they sell in their shops. I would’ve loved this book as a kid.

Title: This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World

Author/Illustrator: Matt Lamothe
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2017
Editor:  Ariel Richardson
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 8-12
Theme: Cross-cultural studies

Synopsis (from Chronicle’s website):

Follow the real lives of seven kids from Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Uganda, and Russia for a single day! In Japan Kei plays Freeze Tag, while in Uganda Daphine likes to jump rope. But while the way they play may differ, the shared rhythm of their days—and this one world we all share—unites them. This genuine exchange provides a window into traditions that may be different from our own as well as a mirror reflecting our common experiences. Inspired by his own travels, Matt Lamothe transports readers across the globe and back with this luminous and thoughtful picture book.

Activities:

  • Read other picture books that compare and contrast daily lives such as People by Peter Spier, Same Same but Different by  Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw, or Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon.
  • Look up a recipe for one of the breakfasts mentioned in the book. Here is a recipe for Anu’s breakfast, paneer paratha.
  • Print out a world map and have the child color in the countries represented in this book.
  • Get an international pen-pal. Here is a good article at kidworldcitizen.org about how best to go about getting a pen-pal in a safe way.

Why I Like This Book:

In this wonderful non-fiction book, we get to peek into the lives of seven kids from around the world and see how different and similar they lives are. We learn what they eat for breakfast, where they live, what they study in school, and more. Each spread has a topic sentence followed by seven examples. An extensive glossary at the end provides additional information. This was helpful because they use the native words when describing the foods they eat for breakfast and lunch.

Please click for larger image.

Please click for larger image.

The author chose a range of families from different economic classes – middle-class kids with private schools and digital devices to families with more simpler means. I was concerned that the child reader might begin to think that one family represents all families from that country. The author beautifully addresses this point on the final page which also has the photographs of the each of the seven families. My only criticism of this book is that all the families are nuclear – mother, father, kids. In many parts of the world, families will include a grandparent, great-grandparent, aunt, uncle all living under a single roof. I feel that the opportunity to show diversity in families was lost.

Nonetheless, this is an excellent book. I highly recommend for the home library as well as the classroom. Excellent for teachers to use during multi-cultural week.

Find This is How We Do It at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1452150184
ISBN-13: 978-1452150185

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. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

 

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