Archive for ‘Non-Fiction’

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.

 

September 11, 2015

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine – plus Giveaway!

Growing up I was a math and science girl. I completed two degrees in engineering and my day job is in the computer industry. It is my pleasure to bring to you today’s book review about Ada Lovelace. Ada is recognized as having created the first algorithm (“computer program”) to be carried out on a mechanical machine. Can you believe it the first programmer was a woman! What is sad is that even though I studied computer programming, I had never heard of Ada Lovelace until a few years ago when I saw a Google Doodle about her. I am thrilled to see this children’s biography about her life and contributions and hope it will inspire today’s girls.

Check-out my interview with author Laurie Wallmark.

Ada coverTitle: Ada Lovelace and the Thinking Machine

Author: Laurie Wallmark
Illustrator: April Chu
Publisher: Creston Books (October 13, 2015)
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 6-10
Themes: Women in Science, Mathematics

Opening Lines:

Ada was born into a world of poetry, but numbers, not words, captured her imagination.

Her mother, Lady Byron, had a passion for geometry. In fact, her nickname was “The Princess of Parallelograms.”

But her famous father dominated the household. Beloved for his Romantic poems, Lord Byron was a celebrity throughout the world.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous romantic poet, Lord Byron, develops her creativity through science and math. When she meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, Ada understands the machine better than anyone else and writes the world’s first computer program in order to demonstrate its capabilities.

Activities:

Why I Like this Book:

A story about one girl’s love for numbers. Numbers were Ada’s friends, they kept her occupied and engaged. They even kept her mind sharp when she temporarily blind due to illness. The author beautifully shows us Ada’s inquiring nature as she progresses from sketching models for flying machines to computing the wings’ power, leading her to eventually collaborating with Charles Babbage on the Analytical Engine. Unfortunately this complex machine was not completed so Ada never got to see her program run but her influence lives on in modern computing.

I was surprised to learn that she was the daughter of the famous poet, Lord Byron, and that her mother loved geometry. I was also intrigued by the fact that there were women that studied math, such as Ada’s tutor Mary Fairfax Somerville. You just don’t learn about women in scientific pursuits for that time period in general history courses. While we do see Ada’s mom encouraging her in analytical thinking, the disparaging opinions of the Nanny give the reader a sense of what was considered appropriate pursuits for girls.

The pencil and paper drawing with the lush digital coloring are gorgeous. I do like the subtle shows of humor by the artist such as the cat hiding in Ada’s bag or the frog in the bathroom. Ms. Chu has elegantly captured Ada’s inquisitiveness and love for science. On one spread Ada is looking at a flock of birds taking flight and the bird that is right over her head is drawn as a mechanical bird, showing us Ada’s curiosity. Click here to see the mechanical bird image plus others from the book.

A detailed author’s note, timeline, and bibliography will help facilitate further investigation. This book is good for use in upper elementary classrooms.

Giveaway:

For a chance to win this book, leave a comment. Deadline to enter is Thursday, September 17th at 9pm PST. Winner will receive the book at time of release in October. Contest is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada.

Find Ada Lovelace and the Thinking Machine at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1939547202
ISBN-13: 978-1939547200

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 a digital review copy of this book from the author. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

August 12, 2015

Nature Books for the Classroom

Welcome back for another classroom pick. Today is a lovely series from author Dianna Hutts Aston. A lady who I have personally met and radiates inner beauty just as her books do.  Be sure to check-out last week’s picks for the classroom Water is Water and It’s a Seashell Enjoy!

Science Book Collage

 

Author Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrator Sylvia Long have created a series of gorgeous science books. The author’s captivating language pulls the reader through the story while the watercolor and ink art challenges the reader to linger just a little longer and soak up some facts. A wonderful combination. These books don’t feel like typical science books, they feel like a work of art trying to capture the beauty of nature. These books are good to have in a home or classroom library, where a kid can hunker down with it and become engrossed.

An Egg is Quiet – Introduction to the vast and amazing world of eggs.

A Seed is Sleepy – Informative look at the intricate, complex, and often surprising world of seeds.

A Butterfly is Patient – Introduction to the world of butterflies. From iridescent blue swallowtails and brilliant orange monarchs to the worlds tiniest butterfly (Western Pygmy Blue) and the largest (Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing), an incredible variety of butterflies are celebrated here in all of their beauty and wonder.

A Rock is Lively – Fascinating world of rocks. From dazzling blue lapis lazuli to volcanic snowflake obsidian, an incredible variety of rocks are showcased in all their splendor.

A Nest is Noisy – Gorgeous and informative look at the fascinating world of nests. From tiny bee hummingbird nests to orangutan nests high in the rainforest canopy, an incredible variety of nests are showcased here.

Common-Core aligned teacher’s guide for all five books.

Here are some interior images.

nestisnoisy

From a NEST IS NOISY. Click for a larger view.

rockislively

From a ROCK IS LIVELY. Click for a larger view.

 

Find these Dianna Aston & Sylvia Long science books at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads

 

Disclosure: I received a review copy of A Nest is Noisy from the publisher Chronicle Books. The other titles I have purchased or borrowed from the library. This review reflects my own honest opinion about the book.

January 16, 2015

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

meandmiranda

Happy New Year!! Hope you all had a wonderful, relaxing holiday break.

I am ecstatic and overjoyed to bring you today’s book review! I first read this beautiful manuscript back in 2012, when Miranda and I were in the same 12×12 critique group. (haven’t heard of 12×12, click the link and find out more about this awesome picture book community. registration for 2015 is currently taking place.) If you ever have the opportunity to listen to Miranda speak/teach .. GO! She is an entertaining speaker and chockful of information. You will be seeing a lot more books with her name as she has FOUR more picture books coming out in the next two years! Now onto the review.

 

One Plastic BagTitle: One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

Author: Miranda Paul (interview)
Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon
Publisher: Millbrook Press (February 1, 2015)
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Africa, Environment, Activism

Excerpt:

Isatou shakes sand off her papers. Another plastic bag floats by, and she tucks her things inside.

The torn bag is useless now. She drops it to the dirt, as everyone does. There’s nowhere else to put it.

Synopsis (from One Plastic Bag website):

Inspiring story of five women who creatively dealt with their village’s plastic trash problem. Despite limited resources and ridicule, Isatou and her friends persevered for more than a decade, eventually realizing economic empowerment through their recycled plastic purse project. The book also includes bonus information such as a Wolof language glossary, timeline of actual events, and photos of the women of Njau.

Activities:

Visit the One Plastic Bag teacher’s resource section for tons of activities and information.

Gambia Facts Worksheet, Dangers of Plastic & What You Can Do resource guide, Downloadable Word Search, Bookmark

The coolest was the video demonstration on how to recycle plastic bags into a purse!

Why I Like This Book:

A wonderful book that shows how one single ordinary person, Isatou Cessay, made a difference. The reason I say ordinary is because initially Isatou had the same views as everyone else, which was that plastic bags are good for carrying things and when they break just  throw them on the ground. But when the plastic bag pollution became a problem for the villagers – goats eating plastic bags and dying, mosquitoes nesting in the pooling water – it was Isatou who did something about it. Together with the help of other women from the village they found a way to recycle the piles of plastic bags into purses they could sell in the nearby city. An empowering message for all young readers, that they too can make a difference.

The book is an engaging read as the Gambian world springs to life by awakening the readers senses via the sounds of the Wolof language “Ndanka”,  smells of Gambian food “bubbling peanut stew” and the sights of village daily life. The illustrations are collages of colored paper, paint, and even plastic bags. Checkout the interview at Seven Impossible Things for more sneak peeks into Ms. Zunon’s artistry.

If you would like to learn more about Gambia, this book, or the purses check out the One Plastic Bag website. I had the opportunity to see one of these purses at a writing retreat this summer. It was quite amazing.

purses

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 a digital review copy of this book from the author. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

%d bloggers like this: