New books (and newsletter sign up)

Today my latest books from Amicus arrived in the mail, which is always a joy. SPACE ROBOTS, HOBBY ROBOTS, MILITARY ROBOTS, and DRONES started their lives in Spring 2016 as word documents on my computer. After a year and half of drafting, revising, designing, proofing, printing, and shipping, they are finally real books!

These books are part of the eight-book ROBOTICS IN OUR WORLD series, designed for reading level 2.0 and up. This is how my publisher, Amicus, describes the series: Our world is filled with even more robots than we think! Readers can explore the various roles that robots have, from helping us in the hospital and at home to the competitions of robot builders. Take a sneak peek into the future of robotics in our world!

Order them online at Amicus and  Amazon.

In other news, as you may have noticed, most of my blogging efforts are now at Sub It Club, a site designed to support authors and illustrators who are submitting work to agents and editors. If you would like to continue getting posts about new books, book-related activities, and public appearances, please sign up for my email newsletter by clicking here. I promise I won’t share your information with anyone. I’ll continue to post on Twitter and Facebook as well.

The Anti-Resolution Revolution

This year I participated in Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Writers. As part of the process, Julie challenged us to reflect on our 2016 successes so we could build on them for 2017. This is a more positive path than creating New Year’s resolutions, which are often built on negativity and efforts to fix things that went “wrong” in 2016.

I enjoyed the time spent combing through my 2016 journals and reviewing all I was able to accomplish. Julie challenged us to share our lists, so here is mine in no particular order:

  • Signing with my wonderful agent, Lara Perkins of Andrea Brown Literary. I couldn’t ask for a bigger cheerleader, better brainstorming partner, or tougher editor.
  • Having Lara submit my first picture book to publishers. Though it hasn’t sold yet, we have been close a couple of times, and many editors offered encouraging words about my work.
  • Finally holding nine of my books written in 2015 in my hands. They include the six-book Protecting Our People series (Amicus), my first book with Capstone (Special Ops), and my two latest from Rourke.
  • Receiving a good review from School Library Journal on the Protecting Our People series.
  • Writing six new books for the school and library market, including four for Amicus, one for Capstone, and one for Rourke.
  • Researching and/or drafting five new picture books.
  • Revising four existing picture books.
  • Finishing a young adult novel I started as part of 2015’s NaNoWriMo and partially revising it.
  • Reaching thousands of young readers and writers during visits to seven schools and one public library.
  • Taking two courses that stretched my writing: Novel Writing through UC San Diego and Renee La Tulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab.
  • Reading many books on writing and creativity, including Big Magic, Creativity Inc., Story Genius, The Originals, Year of Yes, Writing Poetry from the Inside Out, On Writing, In the Palm of Your Hand, The Artist’s Way.

Putting together this list has me excited to start work in 2017. What did you accomplish in 2016?

 

PPBF: PLANTS CAN’T SIT STILL

TITLE: Plants Can’t Sit Still

AUTHOR: Rebecca E. Hirsch

ILLUSTRATOR: Mia Posada

PUBLICATION INFO: Millbrook Press, 2016

ISBN: 978-1467780315

SOURCE: review copy provided by publisher

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 5 and up

GENRE: nonfiction picture book

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Plants don’t have feet or fins or wings, yet they can move in many ways. Look closely and you’ll discover that plants can’t sit still.”

From the publisher: “Do plants really move? Absolutely! You might be surprised by all ways plants can move. Plants might not pick up their roots and walk away, but they definitely don’t sit still! Discover the many ways plants (and their seeds) move. Whether it’s a sunflower, a Venus flytrap, or an exotic plant like an exploding cucumber, this fascinating picture book shows just how excitingly active plants really are.”

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Hirsch turns conventional thinking on its head with this playful book. Plants may be rooted, but they can’t sit still, as Hirsch’s refrain tells us. She uses vivid verbs to explain the many ways plants grow, move, and spread, all the while reinforcing what plants need to grow: water, sunshine, and room. PLANTS CAN’T SIT STILL is both a great read-aloud and a wonderful addition to an elementary classroom unit about plants.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • See for yourself how plants reach and creep. Grow beans in a plastic bag. Find instructions here.
  • OutsideMom provides a lesson plan for learning how seeds move here.
  • Here’s a catchy tune about seed dispersal from Mr. R’s Songs for Teaching.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

PPBF: Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine

 

TITLE: Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine

AUTHOR: Laurie Wallmark

ILLUSTRATOR: April Chu

PUBLICATION INFO: Creston Books, 2015

ISBN: 978-1939547200

SOURCE: personal copy courtesy of Wallmark

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 5 and up (biography)

GENRE: nonfiction picture book

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Ada was born into a world of poetry, but numbers, not words, captured her imagination.”

From the publisher: “Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous romantic poet, Lord Byron, develops her creativity through science and math. When she meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, Ada understands the machine better than anyone else and writes the world’s first computer program in order to demonstrate its capabilities.”

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: STEM … women … need I say more? This book has been so well-reviewed, I’m a little late to the party. One thing that struck me was how Wallmark introduced the idea of one of Ada’s early inventions — a flying machine — and reintroduced the concept at the end to show Ada’s impact on the world: an early computer program called Ada, which allowed modern machines to fly. It creates a perfect circle and a satisfying read.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

PPBF: One Plastic Bag

Yes, I’m a huge Miranda Paul fan. I’ve read Miranda’s debut book, ONE PLASTIC BAG, many times. This year, I shared it with my kindergarten through 3rd-grade LEGO League team. The FIRST LEGO League Jr. challenge was  “Waste Wise,” and students learned about trash, reusing, and recycling. This book was a perfect fit for one of our research sessions.

TITLE: ONE PLASTIC BAG

AUTHOR: Miranda Paul

ILLUSTRATOR: Elizabeth Zunon

PUBLICATION INFO: Millbrook Press, 2015

ISBN:978-1467716086

SOURCE: personal copy

INTENDED AUDIENCE: grades 1 through 4

GENRE: nonfiction picture book

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Isatou walks with her chin frozen.

Fat raindrops pelt her bare arms. Her face hides in the shadow of a palm-leaf basket, and her neck stings with every step.”

From the publisher: “Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred.

The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock that tried to eat them. Something had to change.

Isatou Ceesay was that change. She found a way to recycle the bags and transform her community. This inspirational true story shows how one person’s actions really can make a difference in our world.”

THEMES/TOPICS: social activism, recycling

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: One Plastic Bag has so many hooks. First, Miranda incorporates Gambian culture and language into the text, immersing the reader into Isatou’s world. Second, the book has great read aloud-ability. Miranda uses a repeating refrain: “first one, then two, then ten,” which makes kids want to chant along. Finally, who can resist a story about one person seeing an insurmountable problem and taking a small step that leads to a giant change?

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • One Plastic Bag‘s Web site is packed with activities and information, including a PowerPoint about The Gambia and instructions for turning plastic bags into purses.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

PPBF: DIFFERENT LIKE COCO

TITLE: DIFFERENT LIKE COCO

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Elizabeth Matthews

PUBLICATION INFO: Candlewick Press, 2007

ISBN:978-0763625481

SOURCE: library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: grades K-4

GENRE: picture book

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“At a time when France was the center of all that was wealthy, grandiose, and fashionable, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel was born poor and skinny.”

From the publisher: “Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel was always different. And she vowed to prove that being different was an advantage! Poor, skinny, and orphaned, Coco stubbornly believed that she was as good as the wealthier girls of Paris. Tapping into her creativity and her sewing skills, she began making clothes that suited her (and her pocketbook) — and soon a new generation of independent working women craved her sleek, comfortable, and practical designs. Now an icon of fashion and culture, Coco Chanel continues to inspire young readers, showing just how far a person can come with spunk, determination, and flair.”

THEMES/TOPICS: be yourself/individuality

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Matthews does a wonderful job of making this innovative woman accessible for kids. My eight-year-old has read this book over and over again. When I asked him what he most liked about it, he said it was the rags to riches story element.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • Play dress up! Have your kids use old clothes to make their own innovative fashions.
  • Help kids learn to sew. SewMama will get you started.
  • Simple sewing projects for you to try.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

PPBF: Blue On Blue

blueonbluecover1

TITLE: BLUE ON BLUE

AUTHOR: Dianne White

ILLUSTRATOR: Beth Krommes

PUBLICATION INFO: Beach Lane Books (2014)

ISBN:9781442412675

SOURCE: library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: grades K-3

GENRE: picture book

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Cotton clouds.

Morning light.

Blue on blue.

White on white.”

From the publisher: “Discover the joys of a wild rainstorm in this poetic picture book, illustrated by a Caldecott Medalist.

Join a farming family as they experience the full range of a thrilling seaside thunderstorm—from the wild wind and the very first drops; to the pouring, pouring rain; to the wonderful messy mud after the sun returns!

With gentle, rhyming text and vivid artwork from a Caldecott Medal–winning illustrator, this sublime depiction of nature’s patterns turns a storm into a celebration.”

THEMES/TOPICS: weather

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Dianne White’s rhythmic text builds and bursts just like the thunderstorm it depicts. Beth Krommes’s illustrations add an additional layer to the story, showing the reaction of a girl and farm animals to the storm. Young children will love the rhythm and rhyme. In the classroom, teachers can use the book to discuss weather patterns.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

PPBF: SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR

TITLE: SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK)

AUTHOR: Julie Falatko

ILLUSTRATOR: Tim Miller

PUBLICATION INFO: Viking Books for Young Readers (February 2, 2016)

ISBN: 978-0451469458

SOURCE: personal copy

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 4+

GENRE: picture book

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Snappsy the alligator wasn’t feeling like himself.
His feet felt draggy.
His skin felt baggy.”

From the publisher: “Snappsy the alligator is having a normal day when a pesky narrator steps in to spice up the story. Is Snappsy reading a book … or is he making CRAFTY plans? Is Snappsy on his way to the grocery store … or is he PROWLING the forest for defenseless birds and fuzzy bunnies? Is Snappsy innocently shopping for a party … or is he OBSESSED with snack foods that start with the letter P? What’s the truth? ”

THEMES/TOPICS: storytelling

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Snappsy…How do we love you, let us count the ways. My first-grader is a big fan of other metafiction like WE ARE IN A BOOK (Willems) and A PERFECTLY MESSED UP STORY (McDonnell). He found the dichotomy between what the narrator said about Snappsy and what Snappsy was actually doing to be hilarious. Snappsy shopping at the supermarket was a favorite. This book is fun for home, but is wonderful in a classroom as well. I read it to a group of third-graders for Read Across America, and the book prompted a lively discussion about narrators and storytelling. The students also commented on Miller’s illustrations, including the fact that Snappsy is holding a book about himself on the front cover.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • Have older students write a Snappsy-style book. What happens when the narrator says one thing, and the character does another?
  • Falatko offers Snappsy activity sheets on her Snappsy Activity Sheets.
  • Make your own Snappsy using egg cartons and more.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!