SPECIAL OFFER: A TRUE WONDER is out this September! Would you like an author-signed copy plus a limited edition postcard designed by illustrator Katy Wu? Starting today, get your copy by pre-ordering from Once Upon a Time Bookstore! Here’s the link.
I recently had to make a uber-short book talk about A TRUE WONDER: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything, illus. Katy Wu (HMH/Clarion, Sept. 28, 2021).
Watch the video to find out what what the book is all about in 30 seconds flat. If you know me, you know this was a difficult exercise! I’m a talker when it comes to books.
You can preorder wherever books are sold. Click here for details and how to order: https://www.hmhbooks.com/shop/books/a-true-wonder/9780358238423
I read as many new nonfiction/STEM books as I possibly can, thanks to the library. And I miss reviewing them. But I don’t have the time to craft lengthy blog posts or create lots of pretty Instagram graphics. So, I’m trying something new.
Whenever I get a new library stack, I will:
- Read the books.
- Change out of my gym clothes, fix my hair, and MAYBE put on a little lip gloss.
- Record some 2-minute video book reviews in a single take.
- I’ll post the videos to YouTube as well as my IGTV channel. I’ll also share the links on my Facebook page.
So, here’s an initial batch of reviews:
- The Big Bang Book
- Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon
- We Are Water Protectors
- Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit
- And, coming tomorrow, Unbeatable Betty: Betty Robinson, the First Female Olympic Track & Field Gold Medalist
Enjoy! And if you have 2020 NF/STEM book recommendations, let me know.
|Despite my serious look in the above photo, I adored playing Wonder Woman as a little girl with my sister Stephanie (left). I mean, just look at our ultra-hip Underoos plus homemade tiaras, bracelets, and lassos. We meant business.
When I read historian Jill Lepore’s SECRET HISTORY WONDER WOMAN a couple of years ago, I was intrigued to learn the origin story of my favorite childhood superhero. First, Wonder Woman was developed as an antidote to parental and teacher complaints about comic books (something we still hear today). For a time, Joye Hummel, a woman!, co-wrote scripts with Wonder Woman’s creator (and I got to speak with her on the phone). Plus the character was a powerful influence on Gloria Steinem and appeared on the cover of Ms. Magazine. And there’s so much more!
Though I typically write biographies of people, I knew I could write a biography of a superhero and the evolution of what she’s meant to people over eight decades.
I am so delighted my editor, Jennifer Greene (a true fan!), has paired me with illustrator Katy Wu, who will be illustrating in comic book style. Stay tuned for more early next year.
(And shout out to my mom for this awesome photo circa 1981, which will appear in my author’s note.)
Here’s the book announcement:
WOOD, WIRE, WINGS has been out in the world for nearly three whole months. In celebration, I’m giving away an autographed copy of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, along with a copy of Vicky Fang’s HAPPY PAWS. To enter, sign up for my monthly newsletter here. That’s it! Giveaway ends 5/25 at midnight PDT. Sorry, US entries only.
Taking action in the time of COVID-19
Was it just over a month ago that WOOD, WIRE, WINGS finally took flight? It seems like an eternity after four weeks at home. With many of my book events postponed or canceled over the coming months, I’m focused on what I can do right now, both physically and emotionally.
- Continuing to create – I’m revising a graphic novel and researching a new STEM picture book. For me, creating is an anchor in turbulent times.
- Reading books for inspiration (and reviewing them) – I was lucky enough to pick up a stack of print books two hours before my library closed its doors. I’ve read and reviewed most of them already, so I’m also reading ebooks/audiobooks via Amazon Prime Reading and Libby/Overdrive linked to my library account. (I love listening to audiobooks on Libby while working jigsaw puzzles or baking). Audible is another source for free children’s audiobooks, and countless creators are offering readings and book clubs online. I review as many books as I can on Amazon, B&N, and Goodreads. Since book creators can no longer host in-person events, book reviews are more important than ever for helping readers discover new books. If you’ve read WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, I would be deeply grateful if you would leave an honest review on the book platform of your choice.
- Boosting booksellers – Local bookstores are suffering terribly right now, though many remain open for online and phone orders, often with curbside pickup or inexpensive delivery. You can contact your bookseller directly or shop your local indie at Bookshop.org. Don’t need books for yourself? Consider placing an order to stock a local Little Free Library or buying a gift certificate for later use. Audiobook-lovers can support indies by buying through Libro.fm. Finally, if you are an Amazon fan, the good news is physical books have been reclassified as “essential” with faster ship times and deep discounts (WOOD, WIRE, WINGS is currently discounted to $14.34).
- Connecting with readers online – I’ve created a YouTube version of my engineering design workshop, and have done a few Zoom/Skypes with classes who have read my book. It’s always a delight to connect with young readers, especially when the opportunities are scarce. If you are trying to keep kids busy at home, the number of resources available is overwhelming, but you can find many wonderful ideas from my debut picture book group, The Soaring 20s, on our website.
Here’s hoping you are able to stay safe at home, while your dreams soar in books.
Oh, the places I’ve been (virtually)
It’s been a busy couple of months with lots of podcasts, guest blog posts, and media appearances. Here are a few of the places I’ve been.
- I discussed my Top 5 Tips for (un)Writing Narrative Nonfiction as the April featured author on the 12×12 blog.
- I shared an engineering design activity for kids on Patricia Newman’s LitLinks blog.
- Several Soaring ’20s pals and I revealed little-known facts about our protagonists on KidLit.tv.
- I was featured on the University of Maryland’s Maryland Today, where I recounted my journey from NASA to business school to writing children’s books.
- For Women’s History Month, fellow authors Elisa Boxer, Lindsay Metcalf, and I discussed “Filling in the Gaps” when it comes to writing women’s history.
Coming soon: appearances on Jedlie’s Reading With Your Kids podcast (4/21), Matthew Winner’s Children’s Book Podcast (week of 4/27), Chris Wood’s STEM Everday Podcast (TBD), and much more. Follow me on Twitter @kirstenwlarson or follow my Facebook page so you don’t miss my upcoming appearances.
Books I’m Over the Moon About
I just finished two wonderful nonfiction picture books that reveal how two classic children’s books came to be. And that made me think about what fun it would be to pair these picture book biographies with the children’s classics in the classroom.
First up is FINDING NARNIA by Caroline McAlister, illustrated by Jessica Lanan (Roaring Brook, November 2019). In our schools, students read C. S. Lewis’s THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE in fifth grade. A magnificent companion, FINDING NARNIA is the story of (C.S. Lewis) and his brother Warnie, the imaginative world they invented as children, and how those childhood stories grew into the world of Narnia.
Next, MIEP AND THE MOST FAMOUS DIARY by Meeg Pincus, illustrated by Jordi Solano (Sleeping Bear Press, August 2019), explains how Miep Gies rescued Anne Frank’s diary when Anne and her family were taken by the Nazis. This book pairs perfectly with Anne Frank’s DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL, which our students read in 7th grade.
For younger readers, Melissa Sweet’s SOME WRITER! THE STORY OF E. B. WHITE (HMH, 2016) could be read alongside E. B. White’s CHARLOTTE’S WEB (approximately 3rd grade).
Finally, I’m looking forward to the forthcoming BEATRIX POTTER, SCIENTIST by Lindsay H. Metcalf, illustrated by Junyi Wu forthcoming in September from Albert Whitman. What a great book to read alongside THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT.
The takeaway: if your classroom is reading a classic work of literature with students, check your library to see if a picture book biography is available about the author. PB bios and classic children’s books are always better together.
If you have other great pairings, please share them in the comments. I’ll add them to the Pinterest Board I’ve started.
Teachers and librarians, I’m now booking free 15-minute Skype visits for World Read Aloud Day on Feb. 5, 2020! My schedule, along with those of 50+ other creators, is available on author Kate Messner’s website.
To book, just send me an email at creatingcuriouskids [at] gmail [dot] com with the following information:
1. What’s your name and where do you teach? Please include your school, city, and time zone.
2. What are ALL the time slots that would work for you, based upon my availability on Kate’s site? I will certainly try to meet your first choice, but the more flexible you are, the more likely it is that I’ll be able to accommodate your request. Please note that once your visit is scheduled, I may not be able to reschedule.
3. How many students will I be Skyping with, and what grade(s) will be included?
4. What book(s) will the students have read before our Skype visit? This is not required for WRAD (which involves reading my books aloud, of course) but students tend to have a better experience if they are familiar with my books in advance and brainstorm questions. You can find a full list of my books on my website.
5. What is your username on Skype? If you do not have a username yet please go to the Skype website, sign up for an account, and get a username before you email me.
6. Please provide a classroom or cell phone number where you can be reached on the day of our scheduled visit in case of technical difficulties.
If Feb. 5 doesn’t work for you, remember I’m offering free,15-minute Skype visits for classrooms and libraries who have read WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE with their students after its release on Feb. 25 (through May 31).
Want to make sure you don’t miss release day? Mark the book “to read” on Goodreads, and you’ll get an email when it releases. Or preorder at your store of choice. Need one more nudge? Below is a picture of a recent Skype I did with fourth-graders in Tulare, California.
ICYMI: Blog Roundup
How do authors leave “fingerprints” all over their work? Check out my discussion of author voice and point of view in this #STEMTuesday post.
Books I’m Over the Moon About
As part of my writing process, I read dozens of books by other nonfiction authors. When I read, I make notes about the craft choices authors make in terms of voice, structure, POV, and other unique elements that add up to amazing books. I recently decided to share my notes (in a searchable format), so teachers and fellow writers can see what I find new and noteworthy. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Book: MUSLIM GIRLS RISE: Inspirational Champions of Our Time
Author: Saira Mir
Illustrator: Aaliya Jaleel
Publication Info.: Salaam Reads (October 29, 2019, available for preorder wherever books are sold).
Ages/Grades: first grade and up (ages 6 and up)
Categories: collective biography, expository, third person
- to appear above the horizon
- to increase in intensity
- to attain a higher level
- to come into being
- to exert oneself to meet a challenge”
Overview (from the publisher):
Little Leaders meets Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls in this gorgeous nonfiction picture book that introduces readers to nineteen powerhouse Muslim women who rose up and made their voices heard.
Discover the true stories of nineteen unstoppable Muslim women of the twenty-first century who have risen above challenges, doubts, and sometimes outright hostility to blaze trails in a wide range of fields. Whether it was the culinary arts, fashion, sports, government, science, entertainment, education, or activism, these women never took “no” for an answer or allowed themselves to be silenced. Instead, they worked to rise above and not only achieve their dreams, but become influential leaders.”
What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:
A little backstory: I lived in Dharan, Saudi Arabia for two years growing up, so I have strong feelings about the overwhelmingly negative way the religion of Islam and its people are portrayed in America today. With that in mind, Saira Mir’s inspirational and empowering book about modern-day Muslim women heroes is a breath of fresh air. In this book, kids meet Amanda Saab, an outstanding cook, who feeds her neighbors’ souls and bellies with her Dinner With Your Muslim Neighbor program.
They meet Amani Al-Khatahtbeh who started the website Muslimgirl.com as a place of positivity for Muslim young women.
They meet a fashion designer. A congresswoman. A flight controller. Activists. Athletes. Comic book creators. As Saira Mir reminds us, “Muslim women make history every day. … By refusing to give up they achieved greatness.” This book would be motivational reading for any child.
For writers, collective biographies are less common than single-subject biographies. Yet, they provide wonderful, bite-sized reading. The key to a successful collective biography is a strong theme and takeaway that unites all the subjects. The unifying principle is normally discussed in an initial spead and re-emphasized at the end. Other notable examples include WOMEN WHO DARED, GOOD NIGHT STORIES FOR REBEL GIRLS, and WOMEN IN SCIENCE.
Additional resources for authors, educators, and parents:
- Learn about Islam from Khan Academy and Kids Britannica.
- Cook some Middle Eastern-inspired dishes from Amanda Saab.
- PBS’s Frontline developed a teachers guide and activities to accompany its program MUSLIMS.