Showing posts with label interview. Show all posts
Showing posts with label interview. Show all posts

Sunday, March 17, 2019

In the Middle of the Night: An interview with Laura Purdie Salas about her writing process (ages 3-8)

I'm delighted to celebrate a new poetry book In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House, by Laura Purdie Salas. This delightful collection of poems captured my imagination as they describe the adventures of everyday inanimate objects found at night.
In the Middle of the Night: Poems from a Wide-Awake House
by Laura Purdie Salas
Wordsong / Highlights, 2019
Amazon / your local library
ages 3-8
As part of the blog tour celebrating her new book, Laura was kind enough to share about her writing process with me.

Mary Ann: I'd love to share with readers a little bit about your writing process.

Laura: Thanks so much for being part of the blog tour! Unless I’m writing while traveling, I write on my laptop. I might write individual poems on napkins or my phone, but with a big project like a poetry collection, I do less of that. I write most freely when my fingers can move fast, and I can type much faster than I can write longhand. On July 24, 2012, I wrote in my journal:
I spent 30 minutes, finally, on Nobody's Looking (my original name for this idea) last night right before bed. I don't know why I keep procrastinating. Maybe because I don't have a super-clear image of the finished project in my head.
Mary Ann: I can relate to that so much! Procrastination is really difficult to deal with. What did you do when you felt stuck?

Laura: One thing that helped me was reading lots of poetry books I love, that were in a style I was trying to capture. That day, I wrote this blog post about using mentor texts: Finding My Writing GPS. Reading these books gave me a new sense of enthusiasm.
"Animals on the Go"
Mary Ann: I love your use of words. "Lion flips. / Monkey snips. Dolphin drums. / Dragon strums." Your poems are so much fun to read aloud as each word takes shape first on my tongue and then in our minds. How do you gather words for a poem?

Laura: I collect words on a project by project basis. For example, for a draft of a project I'm currently working on, I wrote in my journal:
Also want to brainstorm some words, synonyms and phrases for belonging, accepted, trust, valued...things like that. Not to mention, just...good. Enough.

belong, fit, like a puzzle piece, believed, traditional, standard, agreed, shouldered, believed, faith, belief, hope, rely, trust, expect, care, protect, guard, depend on, count on, be sure about, worth, price, cost, importance.
Those are all just synonyms, but I often make lists of specifically juicy words I come across in my research that I think, Oooh, I want to use that word somehow in my draft.

Mary Ann: Our students and teachers use a word wall. Do you have a word wall at home? What is your writing space like?

Laura: I love so many words. If I had a word wall, I think our townhome would sag under the weight of it! I love walking while I write, so this is my writing space:
Laura Purdie Salas walking and writing
Mary Ann: I love the way stuffed animals come to life in this! Do you have a story about a stuffie from her own childhood?

Laura: What a great question. I have hardly anything from my childhood. Six or seven books, about a dozen photos, and no toys. But I do have Tommy the Turtle. I may originally have “borrowed” him from my big sister, Patty (don’t tell). He has come with me everywhere I’ve ever lived, and I think Tommy would love to have Octopus teach him how to skate!
Laura Purdie Salas and Tommy the Turtle
Thank you so much, Laura! Many congratulations on a wonderful book. Here are all of the stops on the blog tour:
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Highlights Press. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Tackling Issues: an interview with Katherine Applegate & Jen Petro-Roy (ages 8-14)

Katherine Applegate is one of my students’ favorite authors. Her books include Home of the Brave and wishtree, both of which center around the experience of young immigrants. Jen Petro-Roy is a vital new voice for young readers. Her debut novel P.S. I Miss You has garnered national attention for centering on young same-sex love. I’m excited to welcome them as we explore how fiction engages kids as they think about difficult subjects.

This conversation came out of our panel together at the Bay Area Book Festival last spring. I am so lucky to know these talented, thoughtful women.
Mary Ann: Katherine, You’ve written for many age levels, from very young children to adults, yet it seems that your sweet spot is middle grade. What draws you to this age group?

Katherine: You’re right that middle grade readers are my favorite audience. Typically that’s defined as children 8 to 12 years of age. Children this age are beginning to think about the wider world. They start asking Big Questions (to the delight and frustration of the adults in their lives): What does fairness mean? Why is there cruelty in the world? What defines who I am? Why did Joey get the biggest meatball?

I just wrote an introduction to an essay collection by the beloved children’s writer, Natalie Babbitt (Barking with the Big Dogs: On Writing and Reading Books for Children, coming out on November 20, 2018). Babbitt is perhaps best known for her remarkable novel for middle grade readers, Tuck Everlasting, which Anne Tyler called “one of the best books ever written -- for any age.”

And what is Tuck about, this little book for children? Immortality. Why we have to die. What matters most in our short and magical lives. All those things we try not to think about . . . and absolutely must think about.

And it’s a book for kids.

That’s why I love writing for middle grade readers.

Mary Ann: You're so right -- kids are really beginning to wrestle with big issues. Jen, what has been your experience?

Jen: In my job as a librarian, I found that kids often sought out books about tough topics. They want to read about kids going through struggles--with homelessness, with difficult family situations, with friend troubles, with illness, and more--because they are often going through the same struggles themselves.

When I'm reading, it’s reassuring to see that I’m not the only one going through a specific situation...and it’s even more reassuring to see that characters can find their way through, triumph, and thrive. For kids, this is an even more necessary process, because they don’t have as much life experience. They need to see that representation on the page and they truly want to. It makes them feel so much less alone...and isn’t that one of the aims of literature?

Katherine: I love your point about literature helping us feel less, alone, Jen. That’s probably the greatest gift books can give us. That, and helping us make sense of a world that doesn’t always make sense. (That’s particularly true lately.)

Mary Ann: Jen, can you tell us a little bit about the issues Evie has to wrestle with in P.S. I Miss You?

Jen: After being raised in a very Catholic family, Evie starts to question the beliefs of her parents after her older sister gets pregnant and Evie herself gets her first crush on a girl. Teen pregnancy, religion, and sexuality are definitely three “tough issues” and many have questioned why I raised them in a middle-grade novel. For me, though, this was exactly the place to raise it, because middle school is the time when kids start to question the world, who they are, and how they were raised. It’s so important that these kids can see themselves now, and don’t have to wait until they’re teens or even adults to see themselves represented in literature. At the same time, though, I love hearing about teenagers and adults reading P.S. I Miss You. I think it helps different age groups in different ways.

Mary Ann: Have you heard from young readers about the tough issues you bring up in your books? How have they reacted? What do they find powerful?

Jen: Hearing from and interacting with readers is my absolute favorite part of this job. I’ve heard from a bunch so far about how wonderful it is to see representation of different sexualities in books for their age group. After one of my school visits, I had a girl come up to me and share that she’s a queer middle schooler with a brother about to go off to college, and she really related to Evie, who writes letters to her older sister Cilla. I am so proud to be able to help people feel a little bit less alone.

Mary Ann: Katherine, with wishtree you tackle tough issues around immigration and racism, and yet you do this in a way that 3nd graders can relate to. Do you keep the age of your audience in mind while you write?

Katherine: I do, very much so. (Although I know many writers for children who say the age of the audience doesn’t figure into their writing.) School visits have helped me a lot in this regard. I see the innocence and the honesty in younger readers, and I try to write what they need to hear. If it works for other ages, great.

Mary Ann: One of my students, Clara, told me that books “give kids an idea of how the world can be and how we can change it.” Katherine, while Endling is clearly fantasy, what are you hoping that readers think about while they read it?

Katherine: Endling is a fantasy about the last individual in a doglike species. Here in the real world, we’re in the midst of what is often referred to as the Sixth Extinction, a huge loss of species that seems to be almost entirely the result of human behavior. I wanted to touch on that, but in a way that I hope is accessible to younger readers.

Mary Ann: What do you think parents or teachers are afraid of when they push back against “heavy” or “mature” books for kids?

Jen: As a parent myself, I can understand the impulse to shield kids from tough issues. The world is scary, and it’s even more frightening to think of innocence being shattered. I wish the world was perfect for my daughters, and I wish they could believe it was so. So when parents push back, I think a lot of that impulse comes from fear or the desire to avoid discomfort. It’s hard to imagine explaining things like school shootings or death to children, so it can be easier to avoid the topic entirely. And for issues that parents or teachers don’t believe in, it may be “easier” to ban books or topics entirely. Out of sight, out of mind, after all. The problem there is that issues never remain out of sight. And when kids don’t know the realities of the world, those realities will be that much harder to deal with in the future. They won’t learn tolerance or acceptance, either.

Katherine: This is why librarians were invented. To get books into the hands of the children who most need them.

Mary Ann: Many of my students are drawn to realistic fiction that deals with tough issues. Why do you think this is? How do stories help us?

Katherine: When you’re in the middle of figuring out your place in the world, it helps to have a map. Books are like GPS for our hearts. They help us navigate the hard stuff.

I’ve had OCD since I was a kid. A book like OCDaniel (by Wesley King) would have changed my life.

I have a trans daughter who’s 21. I wish Alex Gino’s George had been around for her when she needed it.

I know too many young girls on their way to eating disorders. I’d love to get Jen’s upcoming novel, Good Enough, into all their hands.

Jen: Stories help us feel like we’re not alone in the world, that we’re not the only one dealing with certain issues. Readers can think, “Hey, if that character can get through such a difficult situation, maybe I can, too.” Simply seeing that books like this exist can make readers feel a sense of belonging, too. If readers see LGBTQ books in libraries or classrooms or are handed a book by their parents, they will know that those authority figures are safe and accepting. That they can go to them if they need to talk. Books can help facilitate a community of love and acceptance, and I love that about them.

Mary Ann: Jen, can you tell us a little about your upcoming books? With Katherine raving about them, I can't wait to know more!

Jen: Absolutely! I have two more books coming out in next year, both out on February 19th. Good Enough is another middle-grade fiction, about a 12-year-old named Riley who has been hospitalized for anorexia nervosa and is struggling to recover amidst parents who don’t understand, a fellow patient who is trying to sabotage Riley, and a gymnastic star sister. I’m so proud of this book, as it was inspired by my own struggle and recovery from anorexia, and there’s not much out there in this area for young readers that is both hopeful and non-triggering. Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends will also be simultaneously releasing You Are Enough, which is a non-fiction guide to eating disorder recovery, body image, and self-esteem for middle-schoolers and teens. Advanced copies of both are starting to make their way in the world!

Katherine: As an early reader, I can offer this spoiler alert: Good Enough is amazing. It belongs in every library.

Mary Ann: I wonder if you can end with any advice for parents about reading.

Jen: Reading is anything your kids want it to be. As a former librarian, I’m familiar with parents steering their children away from books they don’t think are “real literature.” They don’t want their kids to read graphic novels or those easy chapter books with mermaids and puppy dogs on the covers. But any kinds of books are good. Kids thrive when they are reading the books they want, whether it’s a book filled with fart jokes or War and Peace. Let them follow their interests. Let them love the written word.

Katherine: Couldn’t agree with Jen more. Reading is supposed to be fun, people!

I was a reluctant reader myself, and it took me a long time to find my “perfect” book. For me, it was Charlotte's Web. But for your child, it may be a graphic novel. Or non-fiction. Or a picture book. Or a chapter book. Or poetry. Or song lyrics.

It’s all about words. It doesn’t matter how they’re packaged. It only matters how much they’re loved.

Thank you both so much for your time and all of the care and love you pour into your stories. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Ivy & Bean One Big Happy Family, by Annie Barrows -- interview with Mia, age 8

I am so happy to share the newest installment of Ivy + Bean, one of my all-time favorite series of chapter books. I love these two friends; they are goofy, full of mischief, and remind me of all the things I almost did!

This series is perfect for readers new to chapter books. Pictures on every page help readers build a movie in their mind and keep the pacing going. Humor and friendship drama make these stories relatable and funny. The Ivy + Bean series fills a perfect spot in children's literature: between longer Early Readers like Mercy Watson and novels like Ramona the Pest.

Bay Area friends: You'll definitely want to see Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall on Saturday, September 8th at 10am at the Elmwood Theater in Berkeley, organized by Mrs. Dalloway's Books. Get your ticket here and save your spot!
Ivy + Bean One Big Happy Family
by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Chronicle, 2018
Amazon / Public library / Google Books preview
ages 6-9
*best new book*
When I showed the newest installment to one of my favorite readers, she was thrilled to revisit her favorite book friends. So instead of a review, I'd like to share my conversation with Mia, age 8.

Mary Ann: Hi Mia! Why were you excited to read the new Ivy & Bean?

Mia: I really like the series. I like that they're funny and silly. I also like that they're about real kids.

Mary Ann: Can you tell me a little bit about this new book?

Mia: Someone in their class says that only children are spoiled, and Ivy worries about this. So she tries to do lots of things to make sure she isn't spoiled. She gives away her clothes. Then she says they should get a new baby, so she won't be an only child. But the baby ends up crying and fussing so much! Then Ivy & Bean decide that they should actually be twin sisters, so that Ivy isn't an only child.

Mary Ann: Was there a part that made you laugh?

Mia: It was funny when Ivy & Bean tried to become twins and tied their wrists together so their skin would grow together. It was so funny because we knew it wouldn't work and they kept bonking their heads when they tried to get out of their playhouse.

Mary Ann: Were there any other parts you liked?

Mia: It was funny when Nancy was doing yoga and in downward dog. When Bean sees this, she tells Nancy that isn't what a dog looks like. Bean is really funny when she starts barking at Nancy and showing her what a dog does.

Mary Ann: Do you think you're more like Ivy or Bean?

Mia: I am really like both of them! I love reading like Ivy. I also like running around, screaming and being crazy like Bean.

Mary Ann: Thanks so much, Mia. I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts with readers!

Enjoy this book trailer for Ivy & Bean, featuring real kids and what they think about the series:


The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Chronicle. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Tackling Issues: Katherine Applegate & Jen Petro-Roy at the Bay Area Book Festival, April 28th (ages 9-14)

Great books for young readers don’t shy away from tough issues. While parents and teachers sometimes worry that kids aren't ready for difficult subjects, many children want to explore these topics in the safe space provided by fiction.

Come join me in conversation with Katherine Applegate and debut novelist Jen Petro-Roy at the Bay Area Book Festival this weekend. Here are the details:
Tackling Issues, with Katherine Applegate & Jen Petro-Roy
Bay Area Book Festival
The Marsh Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA
Saturday, April 28th at 3:15 p.m.
Katherine Applegate is one of my students' favorite authors. Her books include Home of the Brave (read in all of Berkeley's 5th grade classes) and last year's Mock Newbery title Wishtree. Katherine won the Newbery Award for The One and Only Ivan. Katherine balances imagination, whimsy, empathy and hope, but she also recognizes children's ability to think about difficult issues.
a few of Katherine Applegate's many novels
Home of the Brave centers around refugee experiences, as Kek resettles in America after losing much of his family. One New York Times reviewer called Wishtree “the most moving commentary I’ve read on the anti-immigration movement.” In The One and Only Ivan, children think deeply about the impact of zoos and animal treatment.

Jen Petro-Roy is a vital new voice for young readers; her novel P.S. I Miss You has garnered national attention for centering on young same-sex love and an older sister's teenage pregnancy. Jen was inspired by middle grade authors such as Beverly Cleary, Sharon Creech and Kate Messner.

Come hear how fiction can empower kids and make them feel less alone, and how reading can start a conversation around difficult subjects that kids engage with every day. Remember, anyone under age 18 is let in free—no wristbands necessary!

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Mommy's Khimar, by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and Ebony Glenn -- full of love, sunshine and imagination (ages 4-8)

Mommy's Khimar is a delightful new picture book that is full of love, sunshine and imagination. A young Muslim girl plays dress up with her mother's khimar, or Islamic headscarf. When she wraps it around herself, she feels her mother's love surrounding her and she imagines all of the things she can be. The bright, warm illustrations convey all of this love and draw young readers to this story.
Mommy's Khimar
by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and Ebony Glenn
Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018
Amazon / your local library
ages 4-8
*best new book*
I especially appreciate how this picture book is both specific to this young girl's African American Muslim culture and universal. Many of my students will recognize themselves in this story. Some wear a headscarf every day and will see their family's love and heritage in this story. Others will recognize the joy in playing with their mother's clothes.
Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
I am honored to have Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow as my guest here today. My questions are in red below, followed by her answers.

What planted the seeds for writing Mommy's Khimar?
Wearing a khimar or an Islamic headscarf is part of my everyday life but I wasn’t really sure that I wanted to focus on that in writing kidlit with Muslim characters. I remember thinking people always make this piece of cloth so serious but as a kid I didn’t really see it that way. Khimars were soft, silky scarves I borrowed from my mother when it was time to pray or wrapped around myself to create pretend dresses and gowns. So, I guess I ended up telling a story about how four-year-old me saw the khimar.
"A khimar is a flowing scarf that my mommy wears."
What ran through your head the first time you saw the delightful illustrations by Ebony Glenn?
I was just so giddy! I loved the main character’s facial expressions. She’s very adorable. The scene when she is playing in the closet with all of the khimars is magical every time I look at it. And--this may sound strange--but I loved that the characters have dark skin. In the rare stories about Muslims, I rarely if ever see Black Muslims depicted. It was nice to have more diversity.
"Some have tassels. Some have beads.
Some have sparkly things all over."
I'd love to learn more about why you wear a khimar. Can you tell me a little about this tradition and what it means to you?
I was 14 years old when I decided to wear full hijab. Full hijab is the khimar/head covering and clothing that covers everything except the face and hands. I started exploring my faith more around that time and I saw this as a way to demonstrate my faith in God. I also liked and continue to like the way it identifies me as Muslim. Although I am a religious minority, I get to feel connected to other Muslims who are also identifiably Muslim--even strangers on the street. This wasn’t actually a tradition of my family though. My father is a convert to Islam and although my mother grew up in a Muslim culture, she didn’t regularly wear a khimar when I was growing up unless she was going to the mosque.
"When I wear Mommy's khimar, I am a mama bird.
I spread my golden wings and shield my baby
brother as he sleeps in his nest."
I'm curious about your family heritage. I love the diverse families included in your story. Can you tell us a little about your family?
My family is bicultural. My mother is from Guinea, which is in West Africa and she is from the Mandinka ethnic group which has been predominantly Muslim for centuries. My father is a Black American, descended from the Africans who were brought here through the transatlantic slave trade. He was raised as a Christian but became Muslim as a young man. On his side of the family there are Christians, atheists, and Buddhists. My husband is also a Black American convert to Islam, and so my kids have Christian and Muslim grandparents. My oldest immediately recognized Mom-mom in Mommy’s Khimar as being just like his own Mom-mom or grandmother who often exclaims, “Sweet Jesus!”

I see you're a program director for Mighty Writers--I love the sound of this! Can you tell us a little about your work there?
The mission of Mighty Writers is to teach kids to think and write with clarity. We are a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that provides writing instruction in after school, evening, weekend, summer, and mentorship programs to youth ages 2 to 18 and we provide all of that instruction for free. My work is to create writing programs, teach writing programs, and engage volunteers in doing that work too.

What are some other favorite picture books you like to read with your students at Mighty Writers?
There are so many! In recent months, I have enjoyed reading It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr, The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, and Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena. I think the kids and I have had the most fun reading Say Hello! by Rachel Isadora.

Thank you so much, Jamilah. Your book has already brought my students and me so much happiness. Much luck to your continued writing.

Illustrations copyright ©2017 Ebony Glenn, shared by permission of the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Simon Schuster. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, November 28, 2016

Eric Dinerstein: Interview about What Elephants Know, Nepal & environmental activism

My students are responding What Elephants Know, by Eric Dinerstein, as an adventure story, a call to action and a window to a different part of our world. They talk about how this transports them into the jungles of Nepal. I feel so fortunate to have been able to spend time talking by phone with Eric Dinerstein, learning more about his work as a scientist and his time living in Nepal.
Eric Dinerstein is Director of Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions at RESOLVE. For much of the last 25 years, Eric was Chief Scientist at the World Wildlife Fund. Beginning in 1975, he conducted pioneering studies of tigers in Nepal and led conservation programs for large mammals such as greater one-horned rhinoceros and Asiatic elephants.

Mary Ann: First off, please help us--how do you pronounce your last name?

Eric: Dinerstein is like dinner-steen.

Mary Ann: How did you first come to know the region of Nepal where What Elephants Know takes place?

Eric: My introduction to what is called Bardia was in 1975 when I joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Nepal. I knew so little about Nepal. All I thought of was mountain climbing in the high Himalayas. I found out that the Bardia district was in the lowlands of Nepal, with hot steamy jungles. They say that humidity was invented here, in this monsoon environment.
map of Bardia district of Nepal
Before 1960, this hot, steamy lowland area was overrun with mosquitoes that caused malaria. So it was avoided by most people except the Tharu, who were immune to the deadly disease because they had lived there for generations. As treatments for malaria improved, people from other regions began to move into this area because it was a fertile jungle and they could make it into farmland.

This novel takes place in 1975, as the first signs of development were occurring. As people settled this region, conflicts with wildlife increased. Wild animals’ habitat disappeared as farming spread. Poachers further threatened wild animal populations.

Mary Ann: What inspired you to focus on a young boy who wanted to be an elephant driver?

Eric: When I first lived in Nepal in the Peace Corps, we didn’t have elephants. All of our research was done on foot. When I came back with the Smithsonian to study in Chitwan National Park, we used elephants for our research. There was a government elephant center near us, and an elephant breeding center. I spent five years in the company of drivers. As I started to think about the story, I wondered if I could create a character who could be attuned to the natural world. It helped learning so much living around elephant stables. I wanted to infuse my book with that, but also to make it universal--how you find your way in the world.
elephant driver in Nepal (source: Pixabay)
Mary Ann: What do you want kids to know about elephants today?

Eric: I am noticing a quiet revolution in the West, against elephant captivity and keeping animals isolated in zoos. Elephants are social animals. Moving elephants to sanctuaries and out of zoos is the right thing to do. Elephants should not be kept isolated. Elephant camps in Asia are different because they are kept in larger, social groups. In Hindu countries, elephants are tremendously important so they are treated kindly and with great respect. As a subba-sahib once told me,
“Don’t ever mistake these elephants as domesticated. They’re still wild. They’re just so gentle and accepting that they let us ride them.”
Mary Ann: What advice do you have for kids who want to make a difference with wildlife conservation?

Eric: The poaching crisis for elephants, rhinos and other large animals is significant. Kids need to learn about this, but the pictures are really gruesome. Local nature clubs can make adults aware of their concern--writing letters to press adults to do more. Three crucial steps can help young people take action:
#1: Awareness -- learn all you can about animals you care about.
#2: Connect -- reach out to nature clubs across the world.
#3: Advocate -- together, call for change
Mary Ann: Thank you so much for taking the time. I hope you continue to inspire young readers with your stories.

Special thanks to Armin Arethna and Emma Coleman, children's librarians at the Berkeley Public Library, for their help interviewing Eric.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeier -- poignant messages about family, courage & facing fears (ages 8-12)

When Raina Telgemeier recently held a reading at the Berkeley Public Library, over 500 young fans turned out to see their favorite cartoonist. My students are super-excited that Raina's newest book Ghosts hits the shelves today! Bay Area settings play a prominent role in many of her graphic novels, especially here. To celebrate, I'd like to share my review of Ghosts and a short interview I did with Raina.
Ghosts
by Raina Telgemeier
Scholastic, 2016
book trailer
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-12
*best new book*
When Cat and her family move to a foggy, windy Northern Californian town, she worries that the town’s obsessions with ghosts portends something dangerous and harmful. Cat's little sister Maya has an incurable lung disease cystic fibrosis, she is insatiably curious about ghosts and loves the town's coming celebration of Day of the Dead.

Will Maya be soothed by the town's cool, misty weather or do the ghosts threaten to take her away from Cat? As the story develops, Cat discovers more about the town’s celebration of the Day of the Dead and her own Latino heritage. I especially love the way Raina layers poignant, important messages about family, courage and facing fears.

You create such a relatable character in Cat. I'm curious what part of “Ghosts” draws on your own experiences, and what is creating a new character and story?

Raina: Cat shares my anxiety. I have a lot of fears and phobias, from things that go bump in the night to much deeper issues within myself. Some of these, I worked through on the page, but otherwise Cat and her surroundings are fictional. Her little sister, Maya, who has cystic fibrosis, is in part inspired by my young cousin who became terminally ill when she was 12. Sabina was an incredible, spirited, unstoppable kid, and Maya definitely shares some of her light.

I love how you capture the Northern California coastal setting. What town and experiences influenced this?

Raina: Bahía de la Luna isn’t a real place, but it was inspired by a mash-up of Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Moss Beach, Monterey, and Morro Bay. And a little Santa Ana for good measure, even though that’s in Orange County. I grew up in San Francisco, but my family loved exploring the oceanside towns all over the Bay Area.

My students are particularly interested in the way Maya copes with cystic fibrosis. What inspired you to make this part of the story?

Raina: Cystic fibrosis is a disease that directly affects a person’s ability to breathe, and breathing is a huge theme in the story: ghosts don’t breathe, so Maya feels like she can relate to them. And Cat’s anxiety means that she sometimes forgets to stop and breathe deeply, herself.

Thank you so much, Raina, for taking the time to share with us about Northern California and your wonderful story.  I love this video where Raina shares both the Northern California settings of Ghosts and a little bit about the story.


If you want to read more about Raina Telgemeier and Ghosts, check out these links:
The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Scholastic. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

For the love of...Beans! An interview with Jennifer Holm about Full of Beans

In Full of Beans, Jennifer Holm pulls me into her story from the very first page:
"Look here, Mac. I'm gonna to give it to you straight: grownups lie.
Sure, they like to say that kids make things up and that we don't tell the truth. But they're the lying liars."
Holm creates a character full of sass and resilience--he isn't afraid to tell it like it is. Grownups lie, life is hard, friends are key. I'm also really looking forward to talking with kids about how Beans grows and changes throughout the story.

I'm fascinated by the way that Holm pulls modern kids into a time and place so far away. Life wasn't easy for Beans--the Great Depression has the Florida Keys and all of America in its grip. Jennifer Holm was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about Full of Beans, her research and what struck her during the writing process.
Jennifer Holm
Beans' voice rings so distinctive and true. How do you get into character as you write?

Beans was always such a clear character to me. It sounds silly, but I could totally hear him in my head. I mostly try to get outside to get in the writing zone—away from my desk and computer. For some reason, if I’m taking a walk or jogging, the ideas come more easily.

What are some images of Key West from the 1930s that show how hard life was during the Great Depression?

The website Florida Memory from the state library archives has an incredible collection of historical photographs. At the height of the Great Depression, Key West was in dire straights. The majority of the inhabitants were unemployed and on public relief. This photo from 1935 shows garbage cleanup in a Key West neighborhood:
Garbage cleanup in Key West, 1935
As part of President Roosevelt's New Deal, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration created a plan to revitalize Key West, renovate houses and hotels and turn it into a tourist destination. These before and after pictures of a school teacher's house are amazing. My great-grandmother grew up in a house like that.
Home of a retired school teacher before renovation - Key West, 1935
Home of a retired schoolteacher after renovation- Key West, 1935
What are a few of your favorite sayings from this time period? Did you make them up get them from your research?

I love the phrase “mind your own potatoes.” That just says it all.

All of the sayings except for one were rooted in the time period. My daughter, Millie, made the lone modern contribution with her own personal phrase: “What in the history of cheese?” It’s become a household saying around here.

What was something astonishing you learned doing your research for this book?

The whole leprosy storyline sucked me in pretty fast. It seemed quite far-fetched at first when I started to track down some of the rumors, but the more research I did, the more I discovered. In retrospect, the idea that people would hide family members who had leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) was very understandable. There was no treatment available at the time and quarantine was how the public health service managed the disease. People with leprosy were commonly “sent” (exiled is a better word in my opinion—there was not much choice involved) to leper hospitals, a notable one being in Carville, Louisiana. Even children were sent away. It was quite a heartbreaking situation all around.

Can you share one of the recollections of a family member that helped you bring this story to life?

My favorite memory was shared with me by a distant cousin. She had grown up across from the cemetery—which is in the middle of an old part of the city. The houses in Key West are made of wood and built quite close together. She told me how when she was a child and there was a fire, all the neighbors near the burning house would take their belongings – from pots and pans to pianos – to the cemetery for safe keeping. They would just kind of camp out there because it was the only place that wouldn’t catch fire.

That's pretty amazing, and shows how fire was such a threat in this community. This photo from the Great Fire of 1923 shows just how vulnerable the wooden houses were:
Remains from the "Great Fire of 1923" - Key West, Florida
What connections do you make between the hard times Beans and his friends faced in the Great Depression and challenges kids might be experiencing today?

Having a parent lose their job and the fear of having to move is something that kids of any era can relate to. In our own family, we have had a lot of up-and-down times. Kids always know what’s going on even if the parents aren’t discussing the problems with them.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us about Key West, your research and your wonderful story.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Random House Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, May 9, 2016

Interview with Lisa Brown: Sharing the power of picture books (with people all ages!)

Local artist and author Lisa Brown has a deep and abiding love for picture books. Her newest book The Airport Book comes out tomorrow and is one of the best books of 2015! Brown not only writes and illustrates books, she also teaches illustration at the California College of the Arts. Last year, we had the BEST author visit at our school with Lisa (read all about it here).
Lisa Brown at Emerson
I spent a lovely afternoon talking with Brown about the power of picture books and sharing stories with children. This interview was originally published at Parents Press in March 2016. My words are in italics, Lisa's follow.

I’m fascinated by the experience that reading a picture books leads to, especially between parent and child. What do you see as exciting and unique to this experience?

When I talk with people about picture books, I always say how there are two texts going on: the visuals and the words. A child on your lap is looking and reading the pictures while you are reading the text. There’s an interaction and an interactivity that happens because you can point things out to the child and the child can point things out as well.

Oh, that's so true! And it's one of the reasons why children have loved reading The Airport Book with me, lingering over each page. With young kids, I start by pointing things out -- but then they jump right in. Older kids start talking and pointing things out right away!
The Airport Book, by Lisa Brown
How do you encourage parents to bring picture books alive for young children when they read them aloud?

It’s funny--there are books I read today that I only hear my father’s voice or my grandmother’s voice reading aloud. I hear my father reading “The Monster at the End of This Book” by Jon Stone. He would read it literally--when Grover was covering the pages with bricks, my father would struggle lifting and turning the page and I loved the drama he brought to it.

Illustrators and authors create a moment to pause and linger with a page turn, a moment to anticipate what comes next. My father was reinforcing the art and the pictures as he read this story, and the whole story became real.

As you turn the page, do you just start reading with a child?

Yes, but… you stop often and ask questions. What do you see? What do you think the characters are doing? Why do they want to do that? Have a dialog with the pictures and with the child. In a good picture book, the text is not going to tell you everything. The pictures ideally carry half of the weight of the story. An adult should let the child read the pictures and talk about the story.

Do you think about the age of your audience as you create books?

Not really. Picture books are meant to be read with an adult and they work on many levels. I can create a story about Egyptology (which is sophisticated) and mummies (which are dead things!) and make it for children because they will have an adult reading it with them.

Yes, my students love Mummy Cat! And it also appeals to older children who want to figure out the puzzle on their own. So many older children I know still enjoy picture books. I hope parents encourage that with children and don’t push them to leave picture books aside as their reading develops.

I tell my art students that a picture book is a piece of mass produced fine art : in most cases it is the only exposure a child will have to fine art. But it’s exposure that’s frequent and intimate, as opposed to a museum.

Frequent and intimate, yes. It reminds me of the phrase, “Again, again!”

Repetition is important. I think it brings comfort. I think it brings mastery, noticing more details each time children interact.

Which book did your son ask for again and again?

He loved Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever so much when he was little that we had to hide it because it became so boring for us to read as parents. So we saved it to dole out in airports when we really needed him to be quiet and engrossed.

That’s so funny--The Airport Book reminds me so much of the wonderful detail in Richard Scarry’s books. It’s like this is coming full circle! 

Thank you so much, Lisa, for a lovely afternoon. I can't wait to share The Airport Book with everyone! Many thanks to the publisher, Roaring Brook / Macmillan for sharing the review copy and supporting our work here. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Celebrating all teachers with the fabulous Todd Parr: #TeacherAppreciationWeek #ThankATeacher (ages 3-8)

Todd Parr's books are a constant favorite at our school library. Todd celebrates all kinds of kids, all kinds of families. He makes us feel good with his positive messages and bright artwork. If you've liked his other picture books, you're going to love Todd's newest book: Teachers Rock!
Teachers Rock!
by Todd Parr
Little, Brown, 2016
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-8
With simple text and playful illustrations, Todd Parr celebrates teachers for the love, enthusiasm and encouragement they bring their students each and every day. By looking at everyday activities, Todd calls out so many of the ways that teachers impact their students.He's goofy and makes kids laugh, and he helps us laugh at how silly we all are. And he's also absolutely sincere and genuine, sharing this love and appreciation with all students and teachers.
"Teachers encourage you to be creative."
I'd love to welcome Todd to share a little bit about his creative process with us and what inspired him to write this story.

1. Who was a special teacher for you? How did she/he inspire you?


I’ll never forget Miss Dona, my second second-grade teacher (yes, I had to repeat the second grade). She helped me learn to read. She challenged me to stand up in front of the class and speak. She taught me how to tell my left hand from my right. She took my marbles (the kind you played with and traded) so I wouldn’t get distracted. She even taught me how to make butter.

2. You're so enthusiastic and supportive! How do you keep this positive spirit?

I look at life as it’s for living. Not for just getting by. I’m pretty much like everyone else. I have bad days too.
"Teachers make the classroom a great place to be."
3. The writing process can be so hard for kids. Can you share a picture of messy first draft, so they see a bit of your process?
Since I do everything on the computer now. I can correct my mistakes instantly. It’s on of the reason I love working this way. I have a short attention span and want to see things come together instantly.

4. How do you get into a place or mindset for writing your poetry? Do you have any habits you could share with young writers?

I write and draw when I am feeling excited and creative about something. There are no rules with me. Don’t force things.

The end.
Love, Todd

I love the way Todd talks about wanting to correct his mistakes and move on quickly. I think many of our 3rd graders would absolutely agree that this has been one of the best things about learning to use the computer for their writing.

I'm going to keep this short. Enjoy celebrating the teachers in your life. Take time this week (and always) to tell them how much you appreciate them.

Read more about Todd and his celebration of Teachers Rock! over at the Nerdy Book Club and have fun watching this interview via KidLitTV:



Many thanks to Todd for making time to share his thoughts with us. Many thanks to the publisher, Little Brown for sharing the review copy and supporting our work here. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Friday, April 29, 2016

Lee Wardlaw: Interview series with California poets for young people

I'm so happy to welcome the utterly delightful Lee Wardlaw to talk about poetry, pets and her creative process. Even better, we are celebrating National Hairball Awareness Day (April 29th) and National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day (April 30th)! So snuggle up with your favorite furry friend and let's check in with Lee.

Lee Wardlaw claims her first spoken word was ‘kitty’. Since then, she's shared her life with more than two-dozen cats and published more than two-dozen, award-winning books for young readers. Lee has won many awards, including the Lee Bennet Hopkins Poetry Award and the Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Poetry, both for the delightful picture book Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku.

The newly released companion title, Won Ton and Chopstick, is a 2015 NCTE Notable Poetry Book and a BookSource Scout Award Winner for Children's Poetry. Lee lives in Santa Barbara, CA, with her family, which includes two dog-disdaining cats. Welcome, Lee!

1. How do you get into a place or mindset for writing your poetry? Do you have any habits you could share with young writers?

I've found that a long walk works best to get me started. After I've been walking for a few minutes, my mind slips into a trance, and I just let images and words and sensorial experiences bubble up from my subconscious. (Some of the best dialogue between characters in my novels starts out that way, too!) I'll walk for an hour or more, and when I get home I don't even remember the roads I took or the homes I passed. I just have a gush of ideas that need to be drained into the closest notebook. Often, I get the first line and the last line of a poem that way, which is helpful because I never start writing the actual poem until I know where I'm going with it.

If a walk isn't convenient, I curl up in a chair with a notebook and a cat, and brainstorm. (I also brainstorm in restaurants, or in my car, or wherever I am when I have a few free minutes.) Sometimes, the brainstorms are random scribbles; other times, I actually begin with specific categories, and play off those. Here's a picture of one of the brainstorms I did for my newest book Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku. I'm always been a cat person, so I don't know much of dogs. In this storm session, I wrote down everything I could think of about dogs to get an idea of what the puppy in the story would be like, and what kinds of puppy-isms might contribute to the plot.
Lee's brainstorming for Won Ton and Chopstick
This second photo shows another storm session I had on a placemat when out for a casual dinner with my husband and son. (Yes, my family is used to me 'disappearing' from conversations to jot stuff down. It's my middle-aged version of a teenager staring at his cell phone.)
Lee's dinner brainstorming
2. I love sharing descriptive words with kids is there a word that's been on your mind lately that's particularly delicious?

It depends on the mood I'm in! If I'm feeling silly, I delight in words such as 'weasel' or 'cumberbund'. I also like words that when you see them written, you're not quite sure how to pronounce them, like Phoebe or calliope. (I love the word calliope! Say it out loud: cah-LIE-oh-pee. Listen to the sounds…feel how your mouth purses and stretches!) I enjoy making up words, too, when I can't find one that exactly fits what I'm trying to say. Not long after my husband and I got married (33 years this summer), I came up with the word 'miffled' to describe how I felt whenever he'd come home late for dinner without calling first. 'Miffled' was a combination of 'miffed' and 'ruffled'. (I now see that 'miffled' is in the Urban Dictionary as being a combo of 'miffed' and 'baffled'.) In my middle grade novel 101 Ways to Bug Your Teacher, I use the word 'goose-blisters' to describe a particularly scary and shaming moment - - and how that moment feels physically to my protagonist.

3. What are three books of poetry you'd like to see in every child's home, for them to dip into whenever they want?

I love-love-love All the Small Poems and 14 More by Valerie Worth. Worth is a master at writing succinct, simple poems about common, ordinary objects - - a key, a coat hanger, a thread of string - - and exalting them to extraordinary things.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein is, of course, a MUST for its silly wit and wisdom and poems that everyone can relate to!

Last, I think every household should have a good book of nursery rhymes. One of my favorites is My Very First Mother Goose, edited by Iona Opie (the noted folklorist) and endearingly illustrated by Rosemary Wells. (I'm a huge Wells fan. I love the sweet exuberance of her bunnies, and kittens, and bears.)

4. Is there a poem you have memorized that you can share a snippet with us? Maybe it's something you say to yourself when you need encouragement or just when you want to delight in the power of words.

My memory isn't what it used to be, but I can still recite by heart "Three Cheers for Pooh" by A.A. Milne, a poem I've loved since age 3 or 4. It never fails to make me giggle. I can also recite "The Walrus and the Carpenter" and "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll. The first stanza of "Jabberwocky" appeared in a magazine in 1855, and was titled "Stanza of Anglo-Saxon Poetry". Later, Carroll expanded it, turning it into a story poem. Here's that first stanza:
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
I love the word play in this poem, especially since so many of the words Carroll invented are now in our dictionary - - words such as "chortle", "burble" and "galumph". How frabjous is that?!

Thank you so much, Lee! Thank you so much for sharing your love of poetry with children and families. I love this video of you reading Won Ton and have to share it with readers.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, April 24, 2016

F. Isabel Campoy: Interview series with California poets for young people

Happy Monday! We are so lucky, as a community of parents and educators, that so many artists share their visions of a better world with our children through their words and illustrations. Today, I would like to continue my series of interviews featuring California poets--please welcome F. Isabel Campoy.

Isabel Campoy is the author of many children’s books, both in English and in Spanish. She is an educator specialized in the area of literacy and language acquisition, who also has published both academic articles and teaching guides. For young children, Pio Peep! and Muu Moo! are wonderful collections of traditional Spanish nursery rhymes and songs, in both Spanish and English. Older children, especially in grades 5-8, especially respond to Yes! We Are Latinos, with its nuanced, personal poems showing a range of distinctive Latino cultures.

Campoy's newest book is utterly delightful: Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood. I absolutely agree with this starred review from Kirkus: "An inspiring and wistful message wrapped up in a subtle, thoughtful narrative and lively, beautiful art: simply superb."

She infuses all of her work with a sense of her loving, smiling outlook celebrating both what makes each of us unique and what brings us together. It is a true pleasure to share her poetic advice here.
F. Isabel Campoy
1. How do you get into a place or mindset for writing your poetry? Do you have any habits you could share with young writers?

I write poetry as a way to recognize people, landscapes, feelings, objects as beautiful elements in our universe. I think we are extraordinarily lucky to be alive, and poetry allows me to spend time with all that I love and admire. Each poem expands my horizon.

If I write about the sea, my heart travels to its shore and I invite my readers to come close, hear, smell, feel the ocean. If write about an object, I make it visible to the readers. If I write about a feeling, I embrace those who have ever felt the way I do.

I would answer your question saying that my mindset is getting as close as I can to my humanity, my very humble, loving, inner self. There, sometimes I think, I ask myself questions (not always serious questions, like: “Do cats laugh?”), or I simply share my observations (like: What is my dog thinking when he hides a bone in the garden?). Some other times I write about the injustices of racism , (as in my two line poem: What color do blue eyes see the sea?/ How do brown eyes see it?).
Poetry is my way of being.

To young poets I would simply say: LOOK! Look around and admire, question, reflect.

2. I love sharing descriptive words with kids. Is there a word that’s been on your mind lately that’s particularly delicious?

Titillating

Delish

Lush

3. What are three books of poetry you’d like to see in every child’s home, for them to dip into whenever they want?

I could mention a thousand. I think children should have in their library a good anthology of folklore, where they can remember the songs and poems of their childhood. And then… the world. I think it is important that children read poems from writers of all cultures, all experiences. Voices that will bring to them a broader perspective of life. And as they grow, they should add books that appeal to their age and gender. But… here are some I like:

Where The Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
A Pocketful of Poems, by Nikki Grimes
Been to Yesterdays, by Lee Bennet Hopkins
Animal Poems of the Iguazu/ Animalario del Iguazú, by Francisco X Alarcón

4. Is there a poem that you have memorized that you can share a snippet with us? Maybe it’s something you say to yourself when you need encouragement or just when you want to delight in the power of words.

I begin my poetry workshops reciting a poem by Eloise Greenfield that has become my great companion. There, in very simple language and with very possible metaphors, Eloise teaches a lesson of identity, of pride, of faith, of perseverance, that serves always as a reminder of how important it is to know oneself, and embrace who you are. This is the poem:

BY MYSELF
--Eloise Greenfield

When I’m by myself
And I close my eyes
I’m a twin
I’m a dimple in a chin
I’m a room full of toys
I’m a squeaky noise
I’m a gospel song
I’m a gong
I’m a leaf turning red
I’m a loaf of brown bread
I’m a whatever I want to be
An anything I care to be
And when I open my eyes
What I care to be
Is me.

Thank you Mary Ann for bringing me to your students.

Oh, Isabel, thank YOU for taking the time to share your inspiring words with us. I can't wait to share your newest book, Maybe Something Beautiful, with students throughout Berkeley. Friends, this would make the most perfect gift for teachers next week during Teacher Appreciation Day.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nikki Grimes: Interview series with California poets for young people

I am honored to share today's interview with Nikki Grimes, one of my favorite authors. I am continuing my series interviewing California poets for young people--last week, I interviewed Jorge Argueta; in the works are interviews with Isabel Campoy and Lee Wardlaw. They each bring such wonderful gifts to our children.

Nikki Grimes has received many accolades for her writing, including the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, the NAACP Image Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and many more. I've seen time and again how she inspires my students, connecting with them on a very personal level. At Reading Rockets, this introduction shows how her personal experiences helped shape her connections to reading and writing:
Nikki Grimes was born in Harlem, but grew up in many different parts of New York. As a foster child from a broken home, she moved from place to place, always saying goodbye to new friends. Reading and writing became her survival tools. When she had no one else to talk to, Grimes wrote poems and stories about the things that were bothering her. As an avid reader, she checked out library books by day and read at night by flashlight.
1. How do you get into a place or mindset for writing your poetry? Do you have any habits you could share with young writers?
I pick up three or four books by favorite authors, written for the age group I'm writing that particular book for, and I'll lose myself in them for a day or so. This gets my pistons firing. I think something similar might work for any writer. After all, it's often the writing of authors that spur us to write ourselves.

2. I love sharing descriptive words with kids is there a word that's been on your mind lately that's particularly delicious?
No single word comes to mind, but a new phrase popped into my head recently, which I love and just used in a keynote speech I gave this week: the architecture of dreams! The phrase feels so good on my tongue.

3. What are three books of poetry you'd like to see in every child's home, for them to dip into whenever they want?
Three is an impossibly short list of books, but I'll give you three of my favorites:Water Music by Jane Yolen; Come With Me by Naomi Shihab Nye; and Neighborhood Odesby Gary Soto. But they also need to have books by Langston Hughes, Joyce Sidman, Janet Wong, Paul Janezcko, Jack Prelutsky, Lucille Clifton—like I said, impossible!

4. Is there a poem you have memorized that you can share a snippet with us? Maybe it's something you say to yourself when you need encouragement or just when you want to delight in the power of words.
Sorry. I don't memorize poems, not even my own.

Oh, I love that Nikki is giving us all permission NOT to memorize poems. I know that many people take great joy from reciting poetry, from having the words live permanently in their memory---but I have always struggled with this and felt very anxious about memorizing poems. How lovely to know that one of my favorite poets chooses to simply read and enjoy poetry without stressing about memorizing it.

I will hold the phrase architecture of dreams in my heart. I believe that the poetry, the books we share with our children help lay the foundations upon which they can build their own personal dreams. Nikki, I do hope you can share this speech (or a few parts of it) online.

If you want to read more interviews with Nikki Grimes, I highly recommend these:
Many thanks to Lee and Low Books for helping arrange this interview. And special thanks to Nikki for taking the time to answer these questions on a busy, celebratory weekend.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books