WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES
INSIGHT, INSPIRATION, INFORMATION
Hey, dear friends! How lucky are we…this is a double your pleasure and double your fun post…TWO INCREDIBLE CREATIVES!
Nancy Churnin is an old friend – Danny Popovici is a new one…and I’m thrilled their soon to be launched picture book MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN has brought them together and here to chat with us.
Nancy Churnin is the theater critic for The Dallas Morning News and author of THE WILLIAM HOY STORY, HOW A DEAF BASEBALL PLAYER CHANGED THE GAME (Albert Whitman & Company), which has been picked for the 2016 New York Public Library Best Books for Kids list, the 2017 Texas Library Association’s 2X2 and Topaz lists and the 2018 Illinois School Library Media Association’s Monarch Award Master List. MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN (Creston Books), a Junior Library Guild fall selection, will be out later this month. Coming out in 2018: CHARLIE MAKES HIS SHOT: HOW CHARLIE SIFFORD BROKE THE COLOR BARRIER IN GOLF (Albert Whitman) in January; IRVING BERLIN, THE IMMIGRANT BOY WHO MADE AMERICA SING (Creston Books) in Spring and THE PRINCESS AND THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE (Albert Whitman) in September. A native New Yorker, she’s a graduate of Harvard University, with a master’s from Columbia University School of Journalism, who is happy to call Dallas her home. She and her husband, Dallas Morning News arts writer Michael Granberry, are raising four boys and two cats.
DANNY POPOVICI’s illustrations have appeared in many formats: animation, game, and comic art, but his favorite medium to tell stories is in the pages of magical picture books. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where there’s no shortage of mountains to hike, but he usually leaves his hammer and chisel at home.
Welcome to you both! Nancy, you are up first! I’ve noticed one thing about all the people you choose as your main characters…you become invested in their story. You become a passionate spokesperson for their accomplishments. And you strive to connect young kids with their inspiring tales. Please tell us how that happened.
NANCY: It was just last year, but it seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago that I was sharing my debut book, THE WILLIAM HOY STORY, HOW A DEAF BASEBALL PLAYER CHANGED THE GAME, on Vivian’s amazing, inspirational blog. That unexpected and joyful journey began as a gift from Steve Sandy, a Deaf man and friend of the Hoy family, who has become my friend. Steve has shared my joy as the book went into its 5th printing and racked up recognition, including being on the 2016 New York Public Library Best Books for Kids; the 2017 Texas Library Association’s 2X2 and Topaz lists; the 2017 Bank Street Books Best Books for Kids; and Illinois’ 2018 Monarch Awards Master List. Plus, one of Jez Tuya’s illustrations is featured in a traveling exhibit from the aMAZZAing Mazza Museum: International Art from Picture Books and it was translated into Japanese and is doing extremely well in Japan!
Knowing what it meant to Steve for kids to know the true story of this Deaf hero made we wonder about other untold stories of hidden heroes and heroines. I discovered the story of Dashrath Manjhi in an article about this ordinary man who did an extraordinary thing — he spent 22 years of his life chiseling a path through a 300-foot mountain so that the children in his poor village would have access to school and the sick could get to a doctor.
People in his village told Manjhi he was crazy and I identified with that, too. Writing a story about a man who spends 22 years chiseling a mountain seemed like a crazy idea, but like Manjhi I felt driven. It was something I just had to do! I am very grateful to my agent, Karen Grencik, who believed in this story from the beginning as did my wonderful publisher and editor Marissa Moss, who guided me through multiple revisions of MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN and also to Danny Popovici, whose exquisite illustrations bring a symphonic majesty to the beating heart of the story. I am so grateful to the Junior Library Guild for putting MANJHI on its 2017 fall list and for wonderful early reviews, plus features and support from KitaabWorld, Flowering Minds, Asian Picture Books, A. Cole Books, Stephanie Bange, who was so kind to include MANJHI on her must-have list, Whats New in Children’s Books in the Content Areas?, and our own children’s literature treasure, Vivian Kirkfield!
It’s my dream that this story will encourage kids to be like Manjhi. When you read to the end of the book, you will learn about our MOVE YOUR OWN MOUNTAIN project. I am asking kids what they can do to make a positive difference in their schools and community. I look forward to parents and teachers to send me photographs and extended captions about the children’s projects that I can post on the Move Your Own Mountain page on my nancychurnin.com website. I am hoping that these good deeds will spread as kids give each other wonderful ideas of what they can do and the difference each of us can make.
Thank you so much Vivian for this opportunity to share the story of MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN and for all you do, every day, to help children SOAR!
ME: WOW…thank you so much, Nancy! This is fantastic…I loved hearing the back story of how William Hoy and Manjhi got their start. But I know you are not finished yet…you are offering a wonderful giveaway, plus a super authentic recipe for roti.
NANCY: Make your own roti, like the bread the villagers left for Manjhi (Printed with permission of Manjula Jain of manjulaskitchen.com) Roti also known as Chapati or Fulka, is Indian flat bread made with whole wheat flour. In North India, roti is part of the main meal. Roti is served with a variety of cooked vegetables, lentils, and yogurt.
Makes 4 Rotis.
Ingredients: • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour • 1/8 teaspoon salt • 1/4 cup lukewarm water (Use as needed) Also needed • 2 teaspoons ghee (clear butter) • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour for rolling
1. Mix flour, salt, and water to make sof dough, adding water as needed. Knead the dough for about one minute on a lightly greased surface to make it smooth and pliable. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and set aside at least ten minutes.
2. Divide the dough into four equal parts. Make smooth balls and press flat.
3. Before rolling the roti press both sides of the ball on a dry floured surface to make them easy to roll.
4. Roll to form a six-inch-diameter circle. Use just enough dry flour to roll the roti, as too much flour will make them dry. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin or rolling surface, lightly dust the rotis with dry flour.
5. Heat an iron or heavy skillet on medium high heat. To test, sprinkle a few drops of water on the skillet. If the water sizzles right away, the skillet is ready.
6. Place the one roti into the skillet. When the roti start to change color and start puffing flip it over. There will be some golden brown spots.
7. Flip again afer a few seconds. Using a flat spatula, press lightly on the puffed parts of the roti. This will help the roti puff up. Flip the roti again, until it has light golden-brown spots on both sides.
8. Repeat the same process for remaining roties. Butter the roti, the side that is facing the skillet.
9. Place the rotis in a container lined with a paper towel. Cover the container afer each roti.
10.Roti can be kept outside for up to 2 days wrapped in aluminum foil or in a closed container. For later use, roti can be refrigerated for 5-6 days. Re-heat in a skillet.
ME: Thank you so much, Nancy…we get several great takeaways…find your passion and then write about it…plus a yummy roti recipe. Indian food is my absolute favorite…I am definitely going to try this.
And now dear friends…please take a deep breath…maybe get up and stretch and grab a cup of tea or coffee…and then sit back down to enjoy ANOTHER RIVETING INTERVIEW !
Danny, welcome to Picture Books Help Kids Soar! I know you are sharing some of your process for MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN. We can’t wait…so take it away, Danny!
DANNY: I was sent a manuscript titled Manjhi Moves a Mountain written by Nancy Churnin, and after reading it, I knew I wanted to take this on this project. I neglected to read the author’s note and delved straight into the story. Like most people I know, I have never heard of Dashrath Manjhi. Initially, I thought this was a character Nancy had created. I was pleasantly surprised when I read author’s note; I was left in awe. Not only are Manjhi and his incredible feat a true story, but all took place within the last half a century. Dashrath Manjhi was born in 1934 and died Aug. 17, 2007 at the age of 73.
My production process is never linear, as I jump all over the place from quick sketches, setting up pagination templates, color design, and even testing out what the final product might look like. It’s a large, jumbled mess that over time, pieces come together and begin to form an actual, cohesive, illustrated story. For me, this is one of the most fun parts of illustrating a picture book.
I had a lot of help with research through Nancy, my art director and editor. They made sure I was on the right track and that I didn’t illustrate a specific building or article of clothing that is not common in Bihar, India. Since I have never been to India, I wanted to illustrate the culture with the most upmost respect I could muster. Research was absolutely important during the illustration process.
Once environment and character sketches are approved, I like to move forward to finalizing storyboards and page count. Here is where I begin to break up the text and organize the rhythm of page turns. It’s a long process with many drawings scattered throughout the studio. I like to dedicate a wall for storyboards so I can easily take things down and replace while having my visuals notes right there where I can easily access drawings and mix-match as I see fit.
I like to photograph the final art, but for MMAM, I had to scan the images on a large format scanner. I take the scanned images into Photoshop and here is where I bring everything together, clean up smudges, and do color corrections. I really enjoy this process because it’s setting up the final work that people are going to see. I have a hard time picturing the final project before it’s complete, and this part helps me envision everything together much clearer.
Like Manjhi, I chipped away little by little. Great things don’t happen overnight. Manjhi’s story is a beautiful reminder of the human spirit and dedication it takes to reach a goal. I don’t think there is one person on this beautiful planet that couldn’t learn a thing or two about Manjhi’s persistence and love for community.
ME: No, Danny…thank YOU!!! This was incredible to get a peek at a rough storyboard…and then how you work up the colored illustrations…and then, of course, the actual pages of the book! I can guarantee that this post is going to be bookmarked by many writers…and of course, illustrators!
To learn more about Danny and his books:
ME: And guess what? We are not finished yet. Danny is sharing a recipe for his favorite treat.
-½ cup butter and ½ cup shortening (room temp)
-1½ cups sugar
-1½ tsp cream of tartar
-1 tsp baking soda
-¼ tsp salt
– 2¾ cup flour
Beat shortening, sugar, and eggs together until creamy. Then Blend in cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Then add flour and mix well. Chill for at least 2 hours.
Topping – mix in a bowl 3 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp cinnamon.
Drop dough balls into topping mixture and coat entire cookie. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Okay, dear friends. Take a deep breath. I know this was a mega long and chock full post. One more thing…please leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway from Nancy for a copy of MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN and bookmarks designed by Danny.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. And I urge you to give the gift of a book review on Amazon and/or Goodreads to your favorite authors! It only takes a couple of minutes, but it helps other readers, it helps the author, and it helps spread the word about a book you love.
And with Hurricane Irma bearing down on so many after having caused so much destruction already, I add my prayers for those in her path.