Happy Book Birthday to THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY plus PB Manuscript Critique Giveaway

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! 

I’m definitely singing at the top of my lungs because THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY: The Creation of Diamonds & the Life of H. Tracy Hall launches today! And this is the debut picture book of one of my critique buddies from the VERY FIRST CRITIQUE GROUP I EVER JOINED! (and we are all still going strong!) I saw this story as a rough draft and watched as it grew more and more polished…until it became a shining gem of a book.

CONGRATULATIONS, dear Hannah Holt!

book cover

Make sure you come back on Friday for a Perfect Picture Book Friday review and craft ideas for kids. PLUS, on Saturday, Hannah will be stopping by to chat and share some of her writing journey with us. And don’t forget to leave a comment here and on the other THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY posts…BECAUSE…Hannah has graciously and generously agreed to give away a PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE…and I can tell you from many years experience, this talented author knows how to give unbelievable feedback!

Meanwhile, what can you do? Well, you can head over to pick up a copy of her book on Amazon or at your local indie bookstore. You can write a review on Amazon or Goodreads or some other book review sites. You can go to your library and ask them to purchase a copy or two for their collection, if it isn’t already available there. And you can share this post on your social media channels so the whole world will find out about this fabulous book. It’s going to be such a great #STEM addition to every elementary school and library. And if your kiddos are curious, inventive, lovers of anything science, or have ever been bullied, you definitely want to read this with them.

CONGRATULATIONS, Hannah! This is the first of many more book birthdays to come for you!!!!

 

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday: 100 BUGS: A COUNTING BOOK Plus Giveaway

Hello dear friends! Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday to you all!

Summer is here in New England with hot temps, iced tea, and…

LOTS OF BUGS!

And today’s book is the perfect one for a very buggy day. 

Thanks to the generosity of debut picture book author, Kate Narita, if you leave a comment on this post, you will be entered into the giveaway of a copy of 100 BUGS: A COUNTING BOOK. And, if you don’t win the copy, please consider buying one, asking your library to add one to their collection, telling a friend about it, and leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or any of the book review sites. This is the best gift you can give to authors who write the books you love to read!

100 Bugs a counting book

100 BUGS: A COUNTING BOOK

Written by Kate Narita

Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (June 2018)

Ages: 5-7

Themes: Counting to 100, bugs

Synopsis: From Amazon: 

How many bugs can you count? From walking sticks to spittlebugs, dragonflies to katydids, discovering 10 bugs at a time, you just might see 100 bugs!

Little explorers will learn 10 different ways to count to 10, using 10 different kinds of bugs, and get all the way to 100 by the end of their adventure. With Suzanne Kaufman’s bright, whimsical illustrations and Kate Narita’s clever rhyming text, 100 Bugs! is part look-and-find, part learning experience, and all kinds of fun.

Why I like this book:

  • Bugs, bugs, and more bugs – a topic most kids LOVE to learn about
  • Fabulous illustrations
  • Clever rhymes and super interactivity to engage the kiddos

RELATED ACTIVITIES

  • First off…take a walk and find bugs! 
  • Make a list or chart of all the bugs – place them in different categories like flying, crawling, creeping.
  • Create one of these crafts

16-Creative-Ways-to-Make-Bug-Crafts-with-Kids_A-Little-Pinch-of-Perfect-6-copyPhoto courtesy: https://alittlepinchofperfect.com/creative-bug-crafts-with-kids/

Visit: https://alittlepinchofperfect.com/creative-bug-crafts-with-kids/  for detailed instructions on any of these fun crafts.

Thank you for spending your precious time here…please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered into the book giveaway. And have a safe and happy weekend!

 

 

Michelle Cusolito: Will Write for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INSPIRATION – INFORMATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

 

headshot

Photo credit: Alison Noyce

MICHELLE CUSOLITO

A few years ago, I attended a writer’s retreat and got to meet our Will Write for Cookies guest. I was so impressed with her rapier-sharp focus and spot-on organization for the research she was doing for what sounded like a fabulous nonfiction picture book story. Fast forward to today and…TA-DA. Her debut picture book, FLYING DEEP, launches this week! 

flying deep cover

Michelle Cusolito has been exploring natural places since she was a child growing up on a farm in Southeastern, Massachusetts. She has lived in the Philippines, where she first observed colorful fish in their native environment, and in Ireland, where she and her family hiked “The Burren,” an otherworldly landscape made of limestone. She has trekked to places such as Machu Picchu in Peru and the Sahara Desert in Morocco. She hopes readers will be inspired to explore their worlds. Visit her at michellecusolito.com or follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter.

I’m thrilled to welcome you to Picture Book Help Kids Soar, Michelle! Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by to chat. And I know how busy you are with the book launch, so let’s get to the questions right away.

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

MICHELLE: Like many people my age, I loved Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary. I was also a big fan of the Paddington Bear books. I still have my original boxed set of novels. When I was in 4th grade, I had an amazing teacher, Mrs. Clay, who had a huge impact on my life. Two things that really stand out: she told me I would be a great teacher and she gave me the book Zeely by Virginia Hamilton as a gift. I did go on to be a 4th grade teacher, just like her, and Zeely broadened my reading preferences. Zeely was one of many seeds planted in my lifetime that lead me read as widely as I do.

graphics-Cusolito_Strickrott-_DSC7129Photo credit:  Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Michelle with Bruce Strickrott in front of Alvin. He’s an Alvin pilot and the manager of the Alvin Group. That’s some Styrofoam cups before he took down on the outside Alvin last week. The cups shrink, which helps show how much pressure there is down on the seafloor.

shrunken cups

And this is what the cups look like AFTER they’ve taken a deep sea trip in the Alvin. Illustrator Nicole drew the dumbo octopus on the cups and author Michelle colored them in.

 

ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?

MICHELLE: More often than not, my first drafts are completed at home: in my office, in the screened porch, or sitting on my living room sofa. I need to move around a lot, so I work in different places. When I’m creating something new- say a first draft- I’m usually somewhere comfortable like my sofa or porch. I nearly always write long-hand (Flying Deep is the exception) and my preferred pen is the Pilot P-700, fine point. I love this pen because it’s “fast.” The ink flow keeps up with my hand moving across the page. My best, most creative writing happens when I’m writing longhand. I feel like I’m more connected to my creative brain. It’s usually a big ol’ mess, but as long as I can read it back to myself, that’s good enough. Later, I either type it up or dictate it to Dragon software.

In a real departure from how I normally work, the first draft of Flying Deep was completed while I was out on a walk. I had forgotten my notebook, so I typed it into “notes” on my phone. I had been mulling the topic around for a while, but I hadn’t done any research yet, so I hadn’t planned to write anything. But the first sentence arrived suddenly when I was walking so I had to capture it. Before I knew it, I had written a full first draft. (Note: it was riddled with mistakes because I had not done any research, but I had found the basic structure).

About once a week, I work on revisions in a local coffee shop (I don’t usually write new stuff at the café). I find the change of scenery helps and it pulls me away from the “to do” list at home. As long as there’s a hum of people around me talking or working, I tend to be productive,  sometimes even far more so than if I were at home.  (If it’s quiet and there’s one loud talker, however, I can’t work).

ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?

MICHELLE: I don’t have a specific writing schedule, but I tend to do my creative writing in the morning when I’m fresher. Like many people, I have a real dip in energy and focus in the afternoon, so that’s when I tend to do administrative kinds of tasks like replying to email, tweeting, or updating my website.

There are exceptions to this rule: The first draft of the manuscript I have out on submission right now was written late at night after I got off a video call with my agent, Jill Corcoran. (I was living in Dublin, Ireland at the time and she is in California, so we were navigating an 8-hour time difference). I had spent 2 years researching the subject for a picture book biography and I could not make the manuscript work. (I had many failed drafts).  Jill and I talked it through. That call freed me up. As soon as I hung up, I sat on my bed and wrote the sloppiest first draft out long-hand on copy paper (yep…using my Pilot pen). I was able to write that first draft completely out of my head.  I knew my subject so well that I didn’t need to look at my research. That had been my problem… too much staring at the research. I simply needed focus on telling the story. 

inside AlvinThis is Michelle, inside the Alvin.

ME: Why do you write for children?

MICHELLE: I write for children because I want to share the wonder of the world with them.

Well, first of all, thank you so very much, Michelle, for sharing so much of your journey with us. And second of all…I’m buying a stack of those Pilot pens right away!!!

I know we all wish Michelle the biggest success with FLYING DEEP…and I can’t wait to see the next books she writes! And I hope you will all go and buy her book, write a review, ask your library to purchase it for their collection, and tell all your friends about it!

Somehow, with all of her busyness getting ready for her book launch, Michelle also managed to share one of her favorite cookie recipes. And I do LOVE ginger!

 

MICHELLE: My daughter and I like to bake these cookies together. This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies.

GINGER MOLASSES COOKIES

Ingredients

1 cup sugar plus ¼ to ½ for rolling (see step 3)

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

1 cup blackstrap molasses (dark molasses)

2 eggs

4 cups sifted flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 tsps. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

Directions.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream together the sugar and butter. Add the molasses and eggs. Mix well.
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients and mix them in.
  4. Put ¼ to ½ cup of sugar into a small bowl.
  5. Make small balls of cookie dough, about the size of a walnut. Roll them in the sugar and place them on a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. (NOTE: We’ve found that refrigerating the dough for 30 minutes to an hour before this step is helpful. Once the first batch goes in the oven, we stick it back in the fridge while they cook).
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

I definitely  will be trying these! How about you?

Thank you, dear friends, for spending your precious time here. I hope you all have a safe and happy weekend.

I also wanted to thank everyone who reached out with comforting words, flowers, cards, fruit, nuts, and best of all, shoulders to lean on and ears to listen with.  I’ve been busy going through Stuart’s stuff…he held so many things in high esteem…painting, calligraphy, bamboo fishing rods. antique fountain pens…and my writing. I’m overjoyed and exceedingly grateful for the Highlights Foundation Scholarship Fund that Maria Marshall and Sherri Jones Rivers spearheaded in his memory. As a published author himself, it is exactly the kind of tribute he would have loved!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: FLYING DEEP

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends!

Before we get to the review of today’s picture book, thanks to our generous authors and their publishers, we have some giveaways to announce. 

The winner of A Campfire Tail by Sarah Glenn Marsh is…

SHERRY HOWARD!

The winner of SELFIE SEBASTIAN by Sarah Glenn Marsh is…

BECKY SCHARHORST!

And the winner of THE MANIC PANIC by Richa Jha is…

JOANNE SHER!

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL…I will connect with you all so we can ship out your books!

Thank you, dear readers, for spending your precious time here on my blog. I truly appreciate it and I know our wonderful authors and illustrators love reading the wonderful comments you leave. And the best way to thank these wonderful authors is to buy their books, review their books, and tell other people  about their books!

Speaking of wonderful authors (what’s that you say…I am using the word ‘wonderful’ too many time?) – I met the author of today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday at a conference a couple of years ago. She was already deep into her research for this story and maybe, when she stops by for Will Write for Cookies tomorrow, we will learn more about that.

flying deep cover

FLYING DEEP: CLIMB INSIDE DEEP-SEA SUBMERSIBLE ALVIN

Written by Michelle Cusolito

Illustrated by Nicole Wong

Published by: Charlesbridge (2018)

Ages: 5-9

Themes: Underwater exploration, Submersible Alvin

Synopsis: From Amazon: 

Climb aboard Alvin, the famous deep-sea submersible credited with helping to find the Titanic, and take a trip two miles down to the bottom of the ocean.

Experience a day in the life of an Alvin pilot and join scientists at the seafloor to collect samples and conduct research. Along the way, discover what one wears, eats, and talks about during a typical eight-hour trip in a underwater craft and find out more about the animals that live deep in our oceans. Extensive back matter explains how Alvin works, describes the author’s research, and includes a glossary and further reading.

“An appealing, exhilarating, and informative vicarious journey of discovery” —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Why I like this book:

  • Fabulous information written in a very accessible and engaging manner.
  • Super fun illustrations
  • And if you are in the neighborhood of the Eight Cousins Bookstore in Falmouth, Massachusetts, you can join in the launch party: https://www.facebook.com/events/209296316324369/

RELATED ACTIVITIES:

15-Ocean-Crafts-for-Kids-1Photo courtesy: https://iheartcraftythings.com

For details on any of these fun underwater themed crafts, please click on this link: https://iheartcraftythings.com/15-ocean-kids-crafts.html

If you are looking for more picture book reviews, head on over to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday link up.

Do you have plans for this weekend? I’ve promised my daughter that I’ll help her plant tomatoes.  I also need to get herbs and vegetable plants for my own garden. I love the smell of sun-warmed soil. And there is something very healing about planting things that blossom with life.

 

Laurie Wallmark: Will Write for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR READERS AND WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

headshot

LAURIE WALLMARK

We are breaking new ground on Will Write for Cookies today!

Laurie Wallmark is back! This is her second visit for a Q&A…I am so in love with her books and if you’ve read them, you’ll understand why.

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark’s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books, 2015), received four starred trade reviews (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal) and several national awards, including Outstanding Science Trade Book and the Eureka Award. It is a Cook Prize Honor Book. Her recently released picture book biography, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling Children’s Books, 2017), earned a Kirkus star and was well-reviewed in several trade journals. Laurie has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. When not writing, she teaches computer science at Raritan Valley Community College.

 I’m thrilled to welcome you to Picture Books Help Kids Soar, Laurie!

ME:

 You seem to have found a wonderful niche in writing nonfiction picture books about strong women? Did you enjoy reading women’s biographies when you were a kid? If so, who were your favorites?

 LAURIE:

 When I was a child, you would have thought that Marie Curie was the only woman scientist who had ever lived. There were no biographies of any other women scientists or mathematicians. I did enjoy reading books about mathematicians like Euclid, Newton, and Fermat. In fact, I was convinced I would be the one to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem. (Spoiler alert. I wasn’t.)

Ada cover 72dpi

 ME:

In your opinion, what are the most important steps in writing a great nonfiction picture book?

LAURIE:

The most important part of writing a nonfiction picture book is research, research, research. Not only does that help ensure that your writing is accurate, but it’s through research that you find those fun little nuggets that really bring a person to life. For example, the fact that Grace Hopper couldn’t wait to ride in an airplane with a barnstormer exemplifies her spirit of adventure. Her words perfectly sum up her feelings about doing this: “I squandered all my money—it cost $10—and went up in the plane.” I found this event referenced in only one of my sources about Grace’s life.

unnamed

ME:

Is there a particular era in history that you prefer to write about? When it that? Or is it more important that your subject is a strong STEM woman?

LAURIE:

I’m more interested in the person than when she lived. So far, the women I’ve written about and/or researched for future books have lived in the 1800s and 1900s. By choice, I’m not writing about people who are still alive. Because of the limited word count of picture books, I’d rather be able to view someone’s entire lifetime of accomplishments before deciding which ones to include

ME:

Why do you write nonfiction picture books for children?

LAURIE:

Children absorb stereotypes about who should be a scientist or mathematician at a very early age. If all the people in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) biographies look the same, then children who are of a different sex, race, religion, etc. will assume that this is not a possible career path for them. By writing picture books, I can vaccinate children before they’ve been infected by these negative stereotypes.

hopper cover

ME:

If you have any special tips or thoughts for writers, teachers, parents…please share.

LAURIE:

My best advice for anyone interested in encouraging children to enter STEM is to show the fun side of these fields. Whether it’s through writing or engaging in activities with children, we can show counteract the idea that STEM is hard or boring or, most importantly, for someone else.

Thank you so very much, Laurie…I really appreciate you coming back to provide us with more wonderful insights.

And for all of you who want to find out more about Laurie and her awesome books or get in touch with her:

Click here to join Laurie as she travels from blog to blog to introduce her picture book biography, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code.

Author Website: http://www.lauriewallmark.com/

And if you have a computer-loving kid at home, why not try Laurie’s clever cookie recipe.

GEAR-SHAPED COOKIES RECIPE

gear cookies

INGREDIENTS:

 Butter, softened: 1 and 1/2 cups

White sugar: 2 cups

Eggs: 4

Vanilla extract: 1 teaspoon

All-purpose flour: 5 cups

Baking powder: 2 teaspoons

Salt: 1 teaspoon

Food coloring

 DIRECTIONS

  1. Make dough
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until smooth
  3. Beat in eggs and vanilla
  4. Stir in dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Prepare dough for baking
  6. Separate dough into four or more batches
  7. Mix food coloring into each batch
  8. Shape each batch into a thick disk
  9. Chill disk for at least one hour (or overnight)
  10. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C)
  11. Make cookies
  12. Cut dough into shapes using gear-shaped cookie cutters
  13. Make sure to use a lot of flour to keep dough from sticking
  14. Place cookies one-inch apart on ungreased (or parchment covered) cookie sheets
  15. Bake 6-8 minutes in preheated oven.

 This was so much fun! A huge confetti toss to Laurie for joining us.

Thank you all for stopping by…I love chatting with friends!

 

Picture Book Review and Activity: GRACE HOPPER: Queen of Computer Code

Hurray! Another nonfiction picture book hot off the presses for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday! And it is about another Mighty Girl! Woo-hoo!

But first, it’s time to award Tara Lazar’s special giveaway of a PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE.

There were over 80 comments on that post…Tara’s critique is a fabulous prize!

And the winner is…

LINDA HOFKE!

Congratulations, Linda! And thank you so very much, Tara, for providing this plum of a prize. I’ll reach out and connect you both.

Speaking of awards, today’s picture book is definitely going to win some! And tomorrow we’ll be chatting with the author, Laurie Wallmark.

 hopper cover

GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE

Written by: Laurie Wallmark

Illustrated by Katy Wu

Publisher: Sterling Books (2017)

Ages: Kindergarten  and up

Themes:

Computers, science & technology, mighty girls

Synopsis:

From Amazon:

“If you’ve got a good idea, and you know it’s going to work, go ahead and do it.”

The inspiring story of Grace Hopper—the boundary-breaking woman who revolutionized computer science—is told in an engaging picture book biography.

 Who was Grace Hopper? A software tester, workplace jester, cherished mentor, ace inventor, avid reader, naval leader—AND rule breaker, chance taker, and troublemaker. Acclaimed picture book author Laurie Wallmark (Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine) once again tells the riveting story of a trailblazing woman. Grace Hopper coined the term “computer bug” and taught computers to “speak English.” Throughout her life, Hopper succeeded in doing what no one had ever done before. Delighting in difficult ideas and in defying expectations, the insatiably curious Hopper truly was “Amazing Grace” . . . and a role model for science- and math-minded girls and boys.

Why I like this book:

  • Wonderful STEM story.
  • Great illustrations.
  • I love the way the author sprinkled in actual quotations from Grace…I felt I really got to know the amazing woman she was.
  • We get to see many of the moments in Grace’s childhood that show how she loved math and science and finding out how things worked.

RELATED ACTIVITIES

MAKE A COMPUTER MODEL

creatifulkids-paper-laptop-HelloRuby-3Photo courtesy: http://www.creatifulkids.com/paper-computer/

You will need: Piece of cardboard, paper, markers or crayons, scissors, glue.

For detailed instructions: http://www.creatifulkids.com/paper-computer/

Watch a documentary about Grace Hopper here: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-queen-of-code/

 

And Laurie Wallmark and I will see you tomorrow for her Will Write for Cookies Q&A.

And don’t forget that one of the nicest things you can do for an author is to give them a great review on Amazon or Goodreads: Grace Hopper on Amazon

Laurie Wallmark – Will Write for Cookies

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

LAURIE WALLMARK

I discovered nonfiction picture books when I took Kristen Fulton’s Nonfiction Archaeology class in June of 2014. From that moment on, I wanted to write my own…and I read every single one I could get my hands on. When I saw the cover of Laurie’s debut picture book, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, it was love at first sight.

Ada cover 72dpi

Laurie Wallmark writes exclusively for children. She can’t imagine having to restrict herself to only one type of book, so she writes picture books, middle-grade novels, poetry, and nonfiction. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. When not writing or studying, Laurie teaches computer science at a local community college, both on campus and in prison.

I was thrilled when Laurie and I connected. Back in November, I did a Perfect Picture Book Friday post and she made a guest appearance with about fascinating information about women in history.

 

Welcome, Laurie! It is a pleasure having you here.

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

 

LAURIE:

As a child, I didn’t actually read a lot of children’s books. Instead, my shelves were filled mostly with science fiction. My favorite authors were the big three from the Golden Age of Science Fiction—Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein. I read and reread their novels and short stories over and over again. Much of my early scientific knowledge came from the factual underpinnings of their work. Continue reading