Monday, October 16, 2017

Curiosity & Electric Ideas!

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it's from curiosity that we learn, invent, discover, and create.

From this premise and author Tory Christie's passion to encourage young people--especially girls--to explore science, The Curious McCarthy four-book set was born. 

Ten-year-old Curious, whose real name is Curie (after Marie, the scientist), is one of seven kids with an English teacher mom and an engineer dad. The family and other characters are introduced with humor in illustrations by Mina Price at the beginning of the books. 

In Curious McCarthy's Electric Ideas, the electricity goes off at the McCarthy home, leading Curious to be, well, curious, about electricity. Where does it come from? How does it work? She develops a hypothesis and tries to beat her trouble-maker little brother, John Glenn, in figuring it out. She also tries to beat a schoolmate in the annual arm wrestling championship. You'll have to read it to find out what happens.

This is a fiction book, yet the author includes footnotes. You say you skip those? Oh, don't! These are full of humor and tangential information. Be careful as you read, though, or you might learn something about electricity. Kids will love the school and family situations and great humor throughout.

Each book can stand alone, but contains the same family of characters. Other books in the set:

 Author Tory Christie, pen name of Victoria Christensen and Dakotas-Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) member agreed to answer a few questions.

Jane: What would you like our readers to know?

Tory: I think science should be fun and I hope that the Curious McCarthy books reflect that. I'd love to see more kids (and adults) approach the world with a sense of curiosity and wonder. 

Jane: I love Curious McCarthy’s Electric Ideas and look forward to reading the other 3 titles in this set!  Which one did you write first and what was the spark (pun intended) for the characters and plot?

Tory: Thank you so much for the feedback. I hope you love the other three titles just as much! I wrote the Power of Observation first. It was based on the true story of when I went to a new school. I don't want this to be a spoiler, so I won't spill the beans on what happens in that first book. You'll just have to read the story! Every book is loosely based on true events and the characters are based on my family. Oh ... wait ... the books are fiction ... really. Let's just say that my childhood and my large family gave me a lot of inspiration for the characters in the Curious McCarthy books. As for the plot, that is based on my quest to become a real scientist, even though I didn't have any science role models as a kid.

Jane: Usually when an author turns a manuscript in to an editor, it takes a year or more before it’s actually ready for publication. Your story is much different! Tell us about it.

Tory: Curious McCarthy started out as a picture book in the spring of 2016, believe it or not. I sent it to an agent who loved the voice, but thought it was better material for a chapter book. So, I spent a few weeks revising. In June of 2016, I brought the book to a SCBWI in Fargo to have it critiqued by editor Julie Gassman of Capstone Publishing. She introduced herself as the youngest in a family of nine, and I knew right then that she would "get" the humor of being part of a large family. She asked for the full manuscript right away. I wrote Family Chemistry and Electric Ideas as I waited for an answer. Before I knew it, I had a four book contract and spent much of the fall of 2016 working with Julie and Capstone's team on editing the first three books and writing the fourth, Not-So-Perfect Pitch.

Jane: Are you working on more science-related books? What should we watch for from you?

Tory: Right now I am working on two children's non-fiction books that are more closely related to my career as a scientist. The first is on Renewable Energy and the second is called Where's the Water? They should be published some time this spring.

Jane: Are you more like Curious McCarthy or like John Glenn? ;)

Tory: Really? John Glenn and I have nothing in common!

Jane: Hmm...I'm curious about that, Tory. I'll have to read the other books and get to know you better to find out if you're telling the truth! I'll watch for your other books, too! Thanks for the interview!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Nothing Gold Can Stay: Happy Autumn!

We spent the second week of September exploring the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (also knows as the North Dakota Badlands), where we saw our first real glimpses of leaves changing color. What a glorious time to be there!

I love fall--the beauty of the variety of colors, the crisp morning air and warm days. But I am all too aware of impending winter, and the constant, slow change of nature. As I walk among the changing leaves, I think of Robert Frost's poem, "Nothing Gold Can Stay."

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.

Please read the rest here. Go ahead, click. It's short.

Here's Frost himself reciting it:

and from me, with apologies to Frost,

Make the most of every day,
Grab what's golden on the way,
Knowing that it cannot stay,
Be thankful for the moment.

Happy Fall!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Goodbye Summer!

On this first day of fall, I want to share a few summer tidbits and revisit connections to a couple of books.

We had some great family times, including our almost-five-year-old granddaughter's first bike rides. She invited us to her house to watch her ride because the video on her mom's phone just wasn't enough.

Charles Ghigna covered this in his forth-coming book First Times. I blogged about that book here.
"The first time I help my mother go shopping.
The first time I ride my bike without stopping."

It was a proud time for all of us, and we were pleased to see our granddaughter's grit as she fell and got up again, learning to master the turns.

Another highlight was meeting Andrea Page, author of Sioux Code Talkers of World War II, and hearing her presentation based on her book. She packed our library meeting room, and people even came from other towns to learn more about this important topic. I blogged about the book here.

I'm thankful that Andrea and the family who traveled with her from Rochester, NY, had a great time in my state. You can see her remarks here, here, here, and here. And our tourism bureau did not pay her for any of these glowing reports!

What were some of your great times this summer? Bye, summer, and hello, fall!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Roads, Road Trips, and The Road that Trucks Built

I live in a part of the country that has two seasons--winter and road construction. Never was I more aware of this than on a recent long weekend on the road with cones, detours, and traffic backed up all along the way. 

Were we irritated and impatient? Of course! We are human, after all. But thinking about this new picture book, The Road That Trucks Built, made me appreciate the road-building process. Author Susanna Leonard Hill built this story using the structure of  "The House that Jack Built," with repetition for kids to call out. Hill features each equipment type and in rhyming text tells what each one does, making a book to be read again and again. Adding to the fun are Erica Sirotich's illustrations of the heavy equipment with googly eyes that kids will love. The cover begs to be touched. It has a spinner showing the types of trucks in the book going 'round and 'round like a tire.

Hear more about the book from Susanna herself on the GROG (Group Blog) where I won my copy. Thanks, Susanna & GROG administrators! 

The next time you're stuck in the cone zone, think about all the types of trucks it takes to "make way for the road that trucks built"!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sioux Code Talkers of World War II by Author Andrea Page

I'm excited to bring you news about this debut book by Andrea Page. I was fortunate to win it in an online contest. As soon as I heard of it, I realized its importance to the people of my state. We've heard about code talkers from other Native American tribes, but not about the people who live where I do. That said, anyone interested in WWII or Native American issues will find this book of interest. 

Author Andrea Page, a relative of Sioux Code Talker Sioux John Bear King, sets the stage by giving an account of Sioux culture and history. She goes on to tell how Sioux men chosen to be code talkers were part of the US Army's efforts in winning battles in WWII's Pacific Theater. Her excellent writing lets the reader see the irony of a government that once punished the Sioux for speaking their language now using that language to win a war. Page's thorough research includes photos and transcripts of some of the messages Sioux Code Talkers sent and received. Complete with summary bio information about each of the featured Code Talkers, a bibliography, and index, this book adds new material to the WWII canon. Written as juvenile nonfiction, this book would appeal to adults as well as young people.

I was especially impressed to learn that this book was 2 decades in the making, from the time she learned about John King Bear's service through years of primary document research and interviews to the writing itself. Ta da! At last, a book was born!

Hear more about the writing of the book from Andrea and her mother:

Andrea is making a trip back to "Siouxland" that includes a talk at Siouxland Libraries:
If you're in the area, come out and meet Andrea!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

First Times by Charles Ghigna

There's a first time for everything, so the saying goes! For example, this is the first time a publisher has sent me an unsolicited Advanced Reader Copy. I was elated because I so admire Charles Ghigna's work.

His upcoming book, First Times, illustrated by Lori Joy Smith, celebrates the many firsts that preschool children experience. The rhyming text makes reading aloud fun, and the cartoonish illustrations are just right for the preschool set. Even the font design helps tell the story. This is a happy book, people!

It begins:
First times are fun times!
   From summer to spring.
My first slide down the slide
   My first swing on the swing.

I read this book to my 4-year-old granddaughter. We talked about her "firsts" as we went along, including sliding, swinging, personal care, getting dressed, going shopping. These are everyday things that we grownups take for granted, but shouldn't. Some of these firsts she remembered, some she didn't, and some she still looks forward to. For example, she's always liked books, but she doesn't remember this one:

First Times is a wonderful family book about growing up and being proud of every achievement.  I highly recommend it. Orca Book Publishers will release it in late October, but you can preorder from the publisher or any bookseller.

Charles is also known as Father Goose, a nickname first given to him by the children he visits at schools. He says he writes in a "tree house," which is really the attic of his home.
Here's a little more about Charles from Father Goose himself: 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Long May She Wave: Happy Independence Day!

Sure, we've all heard of Betsy Ross, but did you know that a girl named Caroline helped sew the flag that flew over Fort McHenry, the flag that Francis Scott Key wrote about in his poem, "The Star-Spangled Banner"? 

Using phrases from the poem that became the United States' national anthem, author Kristen Fulton  tells readers about this little-known part of history. This picture book and its design is great for all ages. Young children can grasp the ideas from the text in big font and the pictures, block prints by Holly Berry that emphasize the flag . Older children will appreciate all of the book's text and understand the importance of a little girl in history. (And maybe be inspired by that.) Still older readers will appreciate this new look into history and the information Fulton provides in her Author's Note in the back of the book.

Fulton's writing captures the suspense and importance of the battle from Caroline's point of view. This is an especially wonderful book for Flag Day (June 14) or the 4th of July. 

Take a peek inside the book by viewing the video.

Thank you, Caroline, and thank you, Kristen and Holly for this look into history. Indeed, long may she wave!