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Books, News

THE FIRE OF STARS strikes gold

This is a graphic showing that THE FIRE OF STARS is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection

Big news…THE FIRE OF STARS, illustrated by the amazing Katherine Roy, is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. I am so grateful to the JLG editorial team for this honor. Each year, the JLG editorial team reads thousands of books before they are published, and selects only the best for their member librarians. 95% of the books they select go on to get starred reviews, win awards, and appear on “best of” lists. Hooray!

THE FIRE OF STARS is now being released three weeks earlier on 2/7/23. You can preorder now wherever books are sold. All the buy links are on my book page here. For signed copies and preorder goodies, order via Once Upon a Time.

Books, Education, Homeschool

Dear Olivia Sage: Writing a Persuasive Essay

Each month, I’ll spotlight a book-based educational activity teachers and homeschooling parents can use with their students. These activities are pulled from the educators’ guides developed for my books by author and former educator Marcie Colleen. You can download the complete WOOD, WIRE, WINGS educator’s guide here.

Dear Olivia Sage: Writing a Persuasive Essay

As her dream outgrew her apartment and her wallet, Lilian needed to turn to others for help. One such person she turned to was Olivia Sage, one of the richest women in the world. But often people don’t just hand money to anyone who asks. Lilian needed to ask Olivia Sage while providing enough details to inform Olivia what her money would be used for. She needed to persuade Olivia Sage to help her.

Ask your students if they know what “persuade” means. If not, can they make any guesses?

Discuss:

  • What it means to persuade
  • Times you might want to persuade someone (e.g., persuade your parents to letyou stay up late, persuade your teacher to not give a test)Writing to persuade tells the reader what you believe, gives the reader at least three reasons why you believe it, and has a good ending sentence. You want to try and convince the reader to agree with you.
  • Pretending to be Lilian Todd, have students write a persuasive essay to Olivia Sage stating why they need money and why she should give it to you.

Use the following TREE structure:

T = Topic sentences

R = Reasons

E = Ending

E = Examine
Share your essays with the class. Which is the most persuasive? Why do you think so?

Speaking and Listening Extension: Create a TV commercial or PowerPoint presentation to encourage people to read Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane. Be sure to incorporate the TREE structure!

Holidays

2022 Wonder Woman Gift Guide for Kids

Previously, I shared a “girlfriends” Wonder Woman gift guide aimed at teens and adult fans. While some of those gift ideas might work for little fans too, in this post, I want to focus on gifts perfect for the younger set. So without further ado…

A few holiday gift ideas to pair with the book A TRUE WONDER

If you are looking for other ideas, stickers and pens make great stocking stuffers. You can find them at many places, including Amazon.

Holidays

WOOD, WIRE, WINGS Gift Guide for Women with Wings

Is there a lady in your life with her head in the clouds? I’ve got a few great gifts for women and girls who were born to fly.

  • WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane by Kirsten W. Larson, illustrated by Tracy Subisak (Calkins Creek: 2020). This is the true story of self-taught engineer Lilian Todd, the first woman to design her own airplane in 1910. Buy it wherever books are sold.
  • Women in Aviation International Pioneer tote. I have the tshirt version of this, and I love the nod to all the female in aviation who have come before us. Buy it from Women in Aviation International.
  • I own these paper airplane dangly earrings in silver. Love them so much! Now you can get them in silver, gold, or rose gold. (I may need more). Buy them on Etsy.
  • This is so close to my favorite NASA rhinestone shirt. I may need to order another, since I wear it for school visits and appearances all the time. From LA Pop Art.
  • Fly water bottle from One Plane Jane. There is a lot of super cute stuff on this site.
  • I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning! Now you can enjoy this scent at home thanks to this candle. have no idea what this really smells like, but the idea is hilarious. Buy on Etsy.
Books, Holidays

2022 Gift Guide for Kids Who Soar

Looking for some great gifts for that airplane-loving kids in your life? Here’s an update to the 2020 list I created for our Soaring ’20s group guide.

This is a graphic showing holiday gift ideas for airplane loving kids.
Writing

Writing Tips: Writing More With NaNoWriMo

If you’re a writer or a writing teacher, you’ve probably heard of National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. Every November, writers around the world attempt the big, audacious goal of writing a 50,000-word novel in a month. These drafts are not meant to be New York Times best sellers, but rather messy drafts full of plot holes and gaps that will be filled in and shaped later. In other words, these drafts are a starting point.

I’ll be honest. I’ve never “won” NaNoWriMo by hitting 50K words. But when I commit to to the process (as I am this year in an attempt to finish a middle grade historical fantasy), I always write more than I would otherwise. A lot of writing is overcoming resistance and excuses that keep us from getting started. For me, those excuses are things like “but I haven’t done all the research,” or “I haven’t finished my plot outline.” Honestly, I could ALWAYS spend more time researching or outlining and never put a single word on the page. Who’s with me there?

Yet once I overcome my internal resistance and start writing, I know it’s easier to keep writing. For me, that’s what NaNoWriMo is about — finding that inertia (a writer in motion stays in motion). Maybe it’s just for a month, but sometimes that inertia carries me into December or at least until I run into a big fat editorial deadline.

Bottom line, NaNo is about finding the motivation and the time to get the words down on the page so you have something to work with later. And it can be incredibly useful even if you aren’t writing a novel.

So here’s your challenge…Find a length of time — a month or even just a week — grab a few writing friends, and commit to writing something every day. Here are some ideas to get you started.:

  • Set a timer and write something (anything) for 15 minutes a day. Put an x on your calendar each day you do.
  • If you’re a picture book writer or illustrator, work on one two-page spread each day.
  • Write a poem every day, just to flex your writing muscles.
  • If you’re at the revision stage, why not commit to revising a chapter a day for a month?
  • OR hit whatever your daily word count goal is (for me, it’s 1,000 a day each weekday).

Anything you do is progress.

The NaNoWriMo website has some wonderful resources for preparing to write a novel, which you can use all year long. You’ll find them here.

And if you are a teacher working with young writers, NaNo has a Young Writers Program with writing challenges throughout the year. Learn more and sign your class up here.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, please let me know. I’ll be cheering you on!

Books

The Fire of Stars is a Star

This is a quote care of THE FIRE OF STARS review. Kirkus called it a "luminous thematic pairing."

Waiting for reviews is always the hardest part of being an author, in my opinion. It’s the first indication of how everyday readers might receive your book. Well, today I can breathe a sigh of relief since our first review for THE FIRE OF STARS is in — and it’s a 🌟! 

Kirkus called the book “a luminous thematic pairing” in their starred review. 

Don’t miss the double read-aloud of a star’s formation told alongside the formation of astronomer Cecilia Payne as a scientist. The book is written by me, illus. by the uber-talented Katherine Roy. Coming 2/28/23 from Chronicle Books.

Preorder now wherever books are sold. Order through Once Upon a Time Bookshop, for an autographed copy and a lovely art postcard from Katherine Roy.

Holidays

Wonder Woman Girlfriend Gift Guide (2022)

This is a picture of a few Wonder Woman gift suggestions.

Looking for some special gifts for your group of girlfriends or another Wonder Woman in your life? I have you covered with this list of gifts for the Wonder Woman fan perfect for teens or grown ups.

I’ll be back soon with more bookish gift ideas. Have you already started your holiday shopping? What are some of your favorite finds? Have you uncovered other Wonder Woman gifts you would recommend?

Arts/Crafts, Education, Homeschool

What Makes a Hero Lesson Plan

Each month, I’ll spotlight a book-based educational activity teachers and homeschooling parents can use with their students. These activities are pulled from the educators’ guides developed for my books by author and former educator Marcie Colleen. You can download the full A TRUE WONDER educator’s guide here.

The Hero In Me

Brainstorm a list of the qualities and actions that make Wonder Woman a hero. Then undertake the following project:

  • Have each student lay down on a large piece of butcher paper while someone traces their body with a pencil. Alternatively, download a printable worksheet, like this Superhero Cape printable from Nurtured Neurons for students to use.
  • Once the student has the silhouette of their body or cape, they can write the things that make Wonder Woman a hero outside the outline.
  • Inside the outline, they can write some of the qualities they share with Wonder Woman or ways in which she has inspired them.
  • Then students can decorate their silhouette or cape. Photos and other images can be added to create a collage.
  • For extra fun, challenge students to come up with their own superhero name. (For grown ups, you can find a superhero name generator here.)
Homeschool, Writing

Creativity is Messy…

If I could share one thing with young writers of all ages, it’s that creativity is never a linear process. It’s always full of detours, rabbit holes, and dead ends. And that’s frustrating, but it’s also wonderful! There’s magic in that messiness.

For example, I’ve recently become reacquainted with my notebook pages from when I was first noodling around with a new structure for THE FIRE OF STARS (five years ago now!). Below are my messy and illegible notes. Don’t worry. I’ve included captions to help with the translation.

Before I got to this point with THE FIRE OF STARS, I’d been researching and working on various drafts for almost three years, trying to find just the right way to tell the story of astrophysicist Cecilia Payne. But nothing had come together in quite the right way — yet.

Creating these messy scraps in my notebook through scribbling , experimenting with words, and (badly) sketching led to my eventual creative breakthrough with the book.

The process is a lot like star formation. It stars start with tiny “bits” — dust and hydrogen atoms. Soon the tiny pieces start to clump together, slowly growing until they explode in a breathtaking show of light.

This is also the way Cecilia Payne worked. She tried different things, hit obstacles, and needed a lot of patience before everything came together in her final, ground-breaking discovery.

Creativity — whether writing or science — is messy … and that’s a beautiful thing. So grab your notebook and collect scraps of words, snatches of an idea, and all your swirly scribbles.